Monday, August 10, 2009

Tamarisk Eradication

Tamarisk is an invasive plant that takes a terrible toll on the environment here in the Southwest US. Almost exactly two years ago, I had a post about studies for a plan to introduce Asian beetles here that prey on tamarisk in its natural environment. The concept is that these tamarisk-eating Diorhabda beetles will if not eradicate, at least seriously reduce the plant population.

Today's Denver Post announces that the Colorado Department of Agriculture is releasing 200,000 of the Diorhabda beetles along the Arkansas River this year. Apparently the state is undeterred by a lawsuit that has brought a halt to a federal program with these beetles elsewhere in the Southwest, a development I hadn't heard about.

As always, you have to hold your breath and wait for the unforseen consequences of introducing another alien species. The article points out concerns with affects on Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, a threatened and endangered species that now often nests in tamarisk. We'll see.


Mark Churchill said...

As Dr. H noted in his comment on the previous post, these introductions always have a certain "I-knew-an-old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly" quality to them. I think, though, that concerns about the southwestern willow flycatcher are misplaced—obviously the birds were there long before the tamarisk, and are therefore unlikely to be dependent upon it. As tamarisk is replaced by native trees and shrubs, the flycatchers will once again take advantage of those species for nesting sites. (Willows, for example.)

Reid Farmer said...

I absolutely agree with you. I've managed projects in Southern California where we had to deal with WFL habitat and there was no tamarisk around - they are not tamarisk dependent. And you're right, there's a reason "willow" is in their name.

Heather Houlahan said...

As a lifelong resident of Land Of Plenty Water, I never knew about tamarisk.

Recently read a fine dystopian short story, "The Tamarisk Hunter" by Paolo Bacigalupi in a back issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Set in a too-easily imaginable near-future southwest.

Steve Bodio said...

Any way of finding a link to the story, or a copy?

Matt Mullenix said...

this it?

Heather Houlahan said...

Yep, that's the story.

I understand it was a contest winner, contest being to write a story about a sustainable human community in the arid west.

Pretty scary if that's the closest anyone came.

mdmnm said...

Thanks for the link to the story!

I hope those beetles do a job on the salt cedar and manage to spread out. There is certainly enough of tamarisk all the way down the Rio Grande.