Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forest Service weighing options to save one of world's oldest groves of trees

The Republic (Indiana): The U.S. Forest Service is trying to save one of the world's largest and oldest organisms, a 106-acre aspen thicket being threatened by pests, wildlife and climate change on a mountain slope in central Utah.

Without help the aspen grove could die and finish off a common root system believed to be tens of thousands of years old. It gave birth to genetically identical aspens that aren't sustaining new generations of sprouts. "We probably don't have more than 10 years with this clone," said Terry Holsclaw, a silviculturist for the Fishlake National Forest near Loa, Utah.

Kevin Mueller, program director for the Utah Environmental Congress, said, "I call them the standing dead." The only good way to ensure the aspen stand's future may be to log the mature trees, encouraging the root system to generate sprouts, experts say.

A $100,000 fence would be required to protect the saplings from munching deer and elk, but even this approach may not solve every problem. Scientists aren't certain the root system is healthy enough to send up a sufficient number of suckers to fight off beetles, fungus and gnawing rodents.

Another option is to rip through the root system with tractor blades. Separating a root from the tree stimulates it to regrow a shoot. Likewise, the Forest Service could clear the stand with a controlled fire. Those are some of the options under study by the U.S. Forest Service, which is expected to make a decision on its approach next year. The agency's success will determine the fate of an aspen grove estimated to have taken root about 80,000 years ago....

La Sal mountain range in mid fall. Taken above Horse Creek Gorge Showing aspen trees on several peaks including Haystack, Mellenthin, Peale, and Tukuhnikivatz. Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah, shot by Infected enigma

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