Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides; hereafter aspen) is a clonal species, meaning that it periodically produces suckers from a common root system that grow to replace older trees. Large clones cover many acres and include thousands of trees connected by roots that began from a single seed sometime in the distant past. As highly productive and biologically diverse communities, healthy aspen forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services. Western aspen decline during the last century has been attributed to several causes including altered wildfire regimes, drought, excessive use by livestock and wildlife, and conifer tree encroachment.
Today’s managers need guidance to develop and implement science-based strategies to restore structure, processes, and resilience to aspen growing across a range of situations. In response, a diverse group of researchers, managers and stakeholders collaborated to develop and test a step-by-step process for planning and implementing aspen restoration. The steps include: (1) assessment of aspen condition, (2) identification of problematic conditions, (3) determination of causal factors, (4) selection of appropriate response options, (5) monitoring for improvement, and (6) assessment and adaptation. Resulting guidelines provide a road map for decision makers to adaptively manage aspen in a time of increasing environmental stress and in anticipation of an uncertain future.