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While the conservation of charismatic creatures like pandas, elephants and snow leopards are important in their own right, there may be no better ecological bang-for-our-buck than a sound, science-based effort to save widespread keystone systems. And the majestic aspens could be a perfect start for such an endeavor.
That's the conclusion of the researchers behind the first-ever compendium of world aspen communities. In their new publication, the researchers advance the idea of "mega-conservation," where the conservation of widespread, common, species—like aspen—may have a strategic advantage over traditional, single-species conservation."The significance of aspen is that they support large numbers of dependent species, meaning aspen are truly keystone species," said Paul Rogers, the director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University and a co-author of the report. "There are six species of aspen that span much of the northern hemisphere and similarities in these aspen ecosystems allow us to employ continental conservation practices with enormous benefits to world biodiversity."
Forests - Actions - Management - Timber - Trees
Aspen forests have been directly and indirectly impacted by human actions, including forest management favoring high-value timber trees, domestic and wild herbivore mismanagement, fire suppression, land development and mining, and extended droughts related to climate warming. A vast array of species depend on intact aspen forests; as aspen thrive or decline, so do those species dependent on their status. Previous research, for example, has demonstrated localized declines in bird species, insects, lichens, and small mammals when aspen forests are denuded. A healthy aspen forest, on the other hand, can support...
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