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Tamarisk Beetle Monitoring & Education Program
Since 2007, Tamarisk Coalition has been a leader in providing information on the movement of the tamarisk beetle, a biological control that was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2001 to help manage tamarisk. TC's Tamarisk Beetle Monitoring and Education Program also provides education to the public about the tamarisk beetle's potential ecosystem impacts, as well as strategies that land managers can employ to integrate the tamarisk beetle into their riverside land management practices.
The effectiveness of the beetle (pictured right), which damages tamarisk through repeated leaf defoliation, is apparent across portions of many western states and parts of northern Mexico, where large areas of tamarisk beetle affected tamarisk can be observed.
Tracking the Tamarisk Beetle
TC works with a diversity of partners to track the tamarisk beetle's distribution (via presence/absence monitoring), educate the public about its potential ecosystem impacts, and provide strategies that land managers can employ to integrate the beetle into their riverside land management practices.
Our tamarisk beetle monitoring program has grown tremendously with over 70 partners (spanning 2007 to 2015) providing information to help us create an annual map to display the beetle presence across the West. With documented populations now ranging from Chihuahua, Mexico to California, and up into Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Kansas, the tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda spp.) has quickly become a part of many riparian ecosystems in the West.
Today, the beetle can be found in every state in the southwestern U.S. and has established populations in at least thirteen states and Mexico. We work with land managers in all of these places. TC hosts workshops to train land managers on how to collect and submit monitoring data and conducts outreach presentations to raise awareness on the tamarisk beetle issues and potential impacts. Each year more people are contributing to the data set that indicates where the beetle is located. The impacts of this program are paying off as an increasing number of land managers are incorporating the beetle into their riparian management plans.
While many welcome a cost-effective approach to tamarisk management, the ecosystem implications of widespread defoliation of a dominant woody species are a topic of discussion, and occasionally, concern. For example, defoliation is presently, or at risk of, affecting the reproductive success of the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), an endangered bird that often nests in tamarisk in the absence of native plants.
Defoliation of tamarisk surrounding flycatcher nests results in decreased nest cover and leads to increased predation risk and altered microclimate, having dramatic effects on chick survival.
Other potential issues from the beetle include: standing dead biomass mitigation, bank destabilization, restoration challenges, and repercussions implicit with a rapidly changing landscape. Biological control may assist in the long-term recovery and resiliency of riparian communities, but potential short-term consequences cannot be disregarded.
For more information, view these helpful links:
Why are my Trees Brown? A pamphlet with information on tamarisk and the tamarisk beetle
Beetle vs. Bird: Expert Panel Weighs in on Biocontrol of Invasive Tamarisk Trees (an article recapping the Tamarisk Beetle Expert Panel that we hosted in January 2015)
Tamarisk Beetle Life Stages: The Colorado Department of Agriculture's website on the tamarisk beetle
For more information contact Ben Bloodworth at email@example.com.