Reduced abundance of non-native Tamarix shrubs in western U.S. riparian systems following biological control by a defoliating beetle has led to concerns that replacement plant communities could be dominated by other invasive species and/or not provide some of the ecosystem services that Tamarix was providing. In previous studies, Tamarix decline following biocontrol was accompanied by small increases in native and non-native herbaceous species, with variable responses of woody vegetation. However, none of these studies spanned periods longer than a decade since beetle release. This is an important caveat, given the cyclical nature of plant-herbivore interactions and potential lags in vegetation recovery. We report plant community response to an eight-year-long second cycle of Tamarix defoliation-refoliation in two reaches of the upper Colorado River in eastern Utah, 11–13 years after beetle arrival. Tamarix cover across sites initially declined an average of ca. 50% in response to the beetle, but then recovered. Changes in the associated plant community were small but supported common management goals, including a 47% average increase in cover of a native shrub (Salix exigua), and no secondary invasions by other non-native plants. We suggest that the effectiveness of biocontrol programs must be assessed case-by-case, and on a long-term basis.
|Title||Riparian plant communities remain stable in response to a second cycle of Tamarix biocontrol defoliation|
|Authors||Eduardo Gonzalez, Patrick B. Shafroth, Steven R. Lee, Sasha Reed, Jayne Belnap|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Fort Collins Science Center; Southwest Biological Science Center; Western Ecological Research Center|