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The Transformation of dryland rivers: The future of introduced tamarisk in the U.S.

April 2, 2021

Tamarix spp. (tamarisk or saltcedar), a shrub-like tree, was intentionally introduced to the U.S. from Asia in the mid-1800s. Tamarisk thrives in today’s human-altered streamside (riparian) habitats and can be found along wetlands, rivers, lakes, and streams across the western U.S. In 2001, a biological control agent, Diorhabda spp. (tamarisk leaf beetle), was released in six states, and has since spread throughout the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Beetle defoliation of tamarisk has altered tamarisk’s water use and effectiveness as erosion control, as well as dynamics of native and nonnative plant and wildlife species. The full effects of the tamarisk leaf beetle on ecosystem function remain unknown. The U.S. Geological Survey collaborates with Tribal, State, Federal agencies, and other institutions to provide current, fact-based information on the effects of tamarisk and the tamarisk leaf beetle on managed resources, and provides sound science for conservation and restoration of riparian habitats in the southwestern U.S.