Primary work on the Pando Clone is being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, Fishlake National Forest. Utah State University’s Western Aspen Alliance and the Utah Forest Restoration Working Group advise this work.
Fencing — The fenced area around the 1992 exclosure (15 acres/6.1 ha) was expanded in 2014 to now enclose a much larger area (~40 acre/16 ha). Across the highway (east), a 2013 fence protected 15 acres/6.1 ha for management purposes, but also as part of the experiment described below. Currently roughly 50% of the entire clone is being protected from browsers with 8 ft. (2.5 m) tall fencing.
Livestock — Browsing occurs on the lower Fish Lake basin, including in and around Pando, in a transitory fashion as cattle come into the basin in the summer and leave in the fall. Managers have instructed livestock holders to herd cattle through Pando so as to minimize impacts to young suckers.
Wildlife — Both deer and elk reside in the area and are much more difficult to manage than domestic livestock. It appears, in the case of Pando, that deer are the primary browsers, though this has not been demonstrated conclusively.
Monitoring work is being led by Utah State University’s Western Aspen Alliance in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and Utah Forest Restoration Working Group.
Formal monitoring to check for responses to fencing and trial treatments began in 2014 in the area east of the highway in and around the 2013 fenced area. Twenty-seven standard monitoring plots representing one acre sample areas were established in, a.) each of the three experimental treatment zones (n=7), b.) paired “control zones” adjacent to treatments (n=8), c.) areas outside zones a. & b., but within the fenced area (n=6), and d.) outside the fenced area (n=6).
These plots will be monitored over time to check for changes in regeneration and recruitment of young aspen, as well as for which animals are visiting plots and the rates of browsed stems. With adequate checking and maintenance of fences, no browse should take place within the fence heretofore. However, if short periods of fence breaching occur we should be able to gauge impacts to new sucker growth. Areas outside the fence, of course, will be unprotected from browse, though we hope to better document which animals are responsible for those impacts.
Additional monitoring plots may be established throughout the clone as time and resources allow.
Researchers have learned a lot about the Pando Clone, though there are many unanswered questions. In addition to tracking change over time, we hope to improve strategies for protecting and recruiting aspen within this iconic clone. We also wish to know whether active (fire, cutting aspen, removing juniper) or passive (fencing or removing domestic livestock) actions are the most effective and affordable. Other research topics are sure to arise which will better inform our ideas of how Pando functions and what the most effective management should be.