It’s not us. Which is honestly something we’re grateful for. If something is slowly eating up humans, we’d probably gear up for an apocalypse-type scenario, and we’re honestly not ready for that.
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But enough about us. The single giant organism we’re talking about is Pando, a 106-acre stand of quaking aspen clones. Located in the Wasatch Mountains of the western United States, what looks like an entire forest of individual trees with white bark and small leaves is actually just one organism.
That entire woodland is just 47,000 genetically identical stems from an interconnected root network. Each part of Pando weighs around 6,000 metric tons, which makes it the largest single organism on Earth by mass.
Pando has been around for 14,000 years and was able to support a whole ecosystem of 68 plant species and many animals. Now, its life is being threatened by multiple factors. One of them is the overgrazing by deer and elk. These animals are eating the younger parts of the tree, which means that Pando doesn’t really get to grow.
The changing climate can also pose a threat to the organism. While there isn’t a specific study that looks at aspen, reduced water, and warmer weather can make it hard for trees to form leaves, which has led to plant decline. Learn more about Pando here!
Image credit: Lance Oditt/Friends of Pando