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Steve Nix

Aspen Die-back - Our Most Common North American Tree In Decline

By April 27, 2010

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Aspen, often called trembling or quaking aspen, is the most widely distributed tree species in North America, ranging from Alaska to Newfoundland and down the inter-mountains to Mexico. The states of Utah and Colorado have the largest portion of natural aspen acreage in the World.

Populus tremuloides is the most beautiful fall tree the western United States has to offer. But a die-back is killing older, mature aspens that exceed 80 years in age. Silviculturists have not used the tiresome "global warming" excuse this time. Still, these scientists don't know the exact cause but have some strong opinions as to the reason(s) why.

Possible causes for the aspen die-back or what is called sudden aspen decline are a reduction of fire in older stands, a long-standing western drought and overgrazing which increases the presents of insects and disease. Younger aspens can cope with most natural pests but an aging population loses much of its resistance to pests. Colorado has lost over 138,000 acres of over-mature aspen forests to die-back.

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April 15, 2008 at 12:39 pm
(1) John R. MacInnis says:

I thought Aspen had a short life, like 40 yrs.

if you want it to come back, you have to clear cut. since it needs full sunlight to grow. it is intolerant to shade.
I thought that was basic Forestry?

am I missing something?

April 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm
(2) forestry says:

I don’t think this has anything to do with tree shelf life. Complete groves of aspen are dying, regardless of age (although the older stands get hit first). You might want to check my “arborglyph” article to find that aspen may live longer than you think…SN

May 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm
(3) Kathleen Norris says:

Hi Steve! Well many Aspen here in CO will survive for quite some years in shade but often get black spots on leaves. They don’t like the lower elevations and won’t reach their full fall glory in
the foothills or prarie sites. They prefer full sun, but don’t like the heat at lower elevations.
The thinner air suits them best.
Just my thoughts from SE Denver. Happy Trails!

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