Biological Invasions of Riparian Ecosystems

Science Center Objects

Beginning in the early twentieth century, non-native trees and shrubs, including tamarisk (also commonly known as saltcedar) and Russian-olive, were introduced to the United States for use as ornamental plants and in erosion-control plantings. These plants spread extensively, becoming the third and fourth most frequently occurring woody riparian plants in the American West.


In the western United States, the majority of riparian restoration projects involve control of these, and other, non-native species. We have researched many aspects of these plants, such as understanding environmental factors required for establishment, growth, and spread, as well as interactions with channel change, riparian water use, and wildlife. Current projects are focused on understanding vegetation recovery following biological control of tamarisk, including detailed studies on the Virgin and Colorado rivers; on the dynamics of riparian vegetation following extensive removal of Russian Olive on the Escalante River; and on understanding the distribution and abundance of Siberian Elm in the Upper Colorado, Platte, and Rio Grande basins. Our work on riparian invasives overlaps with other projects, including Large-scale streamflow experiments, and Science to inform riparian ecosystem restoration.