RICHFIELD, Utah, April 18, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Friends of Pando is proud to announce the launch of the Pando Photographic Survey, (friendsofpando.org/explorepando) the first comprehensive inventory of Pando, the world’s largest tree. This first-of-its-kind effort systematically documents the tree’s 106-acre land mass at the ground level using GPS systems and high resolution 360-degree cameras.
Pando is an aspen-clone located in the Fishlake Basin of the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. Pando is the world’s largest tree by weight, land mass and the largest aspen-clone. Made up of an estimated 47,000 branches, the tree took root sometime around 9,000 years ago. First observed in 1976, the tree was verified by genetic testing in 2008, but had never been inventoried until now. Despite the cadence of headlines that the remote botanical wonder garners, little is known about the workings of the tree. As Executive Director Lance Oditt says, “As any gardener knows, if you want to see your garden grow and be healthy, you must understand soil, light, water needs and how to deal with disease and pests. To date, nearly all the research has been about pests. This record provides a way for scientists to study the vital workings of the tree immersively, year-round from anywhere in the world.”
Developed in collaboration with Fishlake National Forest and Snow College Richfield, the record offers immediate and long-term value for field and remote research efforts. Documenting Pando every 7m with high accuracy, Oditt says the plot map itself has already been used for field research planning. Long-term, the maps and image data sets can be replicated to monitor Pando for generations to come. For remote research, the system offers a flexible model that allows scientists to use the data sets as provided or, mix-and-match recorded locations to design areas of interest. This work, which explores the use of advanced imaging models and statistical techniques, can provide insights on topics such as disease, regeneration and ground cover. As scientist Richard Walton, who grew up near Pando and has written about the tree says: “I’m excited for the prospects that the effort holds for researchers interested in understanding the health of the tree.”
Created by a 39-member team of citizen scientists and students, the effort marks a new chapter in Pando research: having a group dedicated to its year-round study and protection at a local level. The project’s Chief Scientist, Ryan Thalman, who teaches Chemistry and Natural Sciences at local Snow College, comments, “The Pando Photographic Survey was a chance for local students to engage in recording a lasting record of something in their backyard.” Oditt expands on the local theme, “This was created by people who share their whole lives with Pando, one team member took their engagement picture in the tree. We hope the record reflects that sort of hopefulness and, long-term thinking.”
A developing story, the initial offering reveals 20 acres of Pando with more data coming online in the coming weeks and months. Already the largest record of Pando to date, the group sees enormous potential in science education and promoting shared understanding. Oditt continues, “Humans don’t tend to trust or value ‘clones,’ copies of the original, but with trees, including Pando, cloning is a survival strategy, and the clones are part of, not separate from, the original. Add to that, headlines claiming the tree is dying, which we don’t have enough data to support, and there is room for a lot of confusion. Now, people can see for themselves, and scientists have a new way to study and communicate about the tree.
SOURCE Friends of Pando