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A river system to watch: documenting the effects of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) biocontrol in the Virgin River valley

December 1, 2010

Throughout riparian areas of the southwestern United States, non-native saltcedar (also known as tamarisk; Tamarix spp.) can form dense, monotypic stands and is often reported to have detrimental effects on native plants and habitat quality (Everitt 1980; Shafroth et al. 2005). Natural resource managers of these riparian areas spend considerable time and resources controlling saltcedar using a variety of techniques, including chemical (Duncan and McDaniel 1998), mechanical, and burning methods (Shafroth et al. 2005). Approximately one billion dollars are spent each year on river restoration projects nationally (Bernhardt et al. 2005), and a majority of these projects focus on invasive species control in the Southwest (Follstad Shah et al. 2007).

A technique that has drawn much attention is the use of the saltcedar leaf beetle (Diorhabda spp.), a specialist herbivore, as biological control of saltcedar (Lewis et al. 2003). Research testing was conducted with beetles housed in secure enclosures in six states in 1998 and 1999 (Dudley et al. 2001), followed by open release at some of those sites starting in 2001 (DeLoach et al. 2004). By 2005, full-scale saltcedar biocontrol was implemented in 13 states, led by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency that oversees biological control programs, and with the participation and support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Despite the widespread application of Diorhabda, however, only limited research has quantified the consequences (benefits and costs) on biotic communities and ecosystem services. Alterations to riparian areas caused by various non-native species control activities have the potential to affect a variety of habitat types used by wildlife (Bateman et al. 2008a); processes like water availability, fluvial deposition, and erosion; and the establishment of other non-native species (Carruthers and D'Antonio 2005, Shafroth et al. 2005, DeLoach et al. 2006). Similarly, biocontrol is expected to modify riparian ecosystems, and it is imperative to document and evaluate both the environmental benefits and the potential costs of this tamarisk management method.

Publication Year 2010
Title A river system to watch: documenting the effects of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) biocontrol in the Virgin River valley
DOI 10.3368/er.28.4.405
Authors Heather L. Bateman, Tom L. Dudley, Dan W. Bean, Steven M. Ostoja, Kevin R. Hultine, Michael J. Kuehn
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Restoration
Index ID 70123980
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center