Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is a keystone species for resource managers. Aspens provide conditions that favor a rich, diverse understory of vegetation that yields essential food and cover for numerous species of wildlife, including hare, black bear, deer, elk, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and a number of smaller birds and mammals. For mule deer, aspen stands provide exceptional fawning sites and fawns reared in aspen communities fair better than those reared in sagebrush or other habitat types. Furthermore aspen provide a scenic beauty that is cherished by outdoors enthusiasts.
Quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree species in North America, ranging throughout Canada and most of the United States (including Alaska), and extending into Mexico. However, since the late 19th to early 20th centuries, it is estimated that the aspen component of the landscape in Eastern Idaho has declined by as much as 65%.
At one time on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, 45% of the Caribou acreage and 40% of the Targhee acreage were occupied by aspen. Now that has dwindled to less than 27% on the Caribou and less than 9% on the Targhee.
Lost Aspen means a loss of valuable habitat to wildlife, and a reduction in a resource that is valued by the public as a whole.
This is a stand of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
in southeast Idaho. How many different aspen trees do
you see? That is a trick question. This stand really isn't
made of of individual aspen trees; it is all one organism
or "clone". Most of the organism lives underground as
an intricate root system.