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Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Report

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Considerable debate surrounds the persistence of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) communities in western North America. Loss of aspen cover has been documented in several studies in various Rocky Mountain ecosystems (Loope and Gruel 1973; Romme et al. 1995; Renkin and Despain 1996; Wirth et al. 1996; Baker et al. 1997; Kay 1997; Bartos and Campbell 1998; White et al. 1998; Gallant et al. 2003). Explanations for loss of aspen include conifer encroachment, fire exclusion, herbivory, and climatic fluctuations (Loope and Gruell 1973; Mueggler 1985; Bartos et al. 1994; Romme et al. 1995; Kay 1997; White et al. 1998). However, many studies documenting aspen decline have been geographically limited or based on a small sample of subjectively chosen stands (Barnett and Stohlgren 2001; Hessl 2002; Kaye et al. 2003).