Beetle vs. Bird: Expert Panel Weighs in on Biocontrol of Invasive Tamarisk Trees

January 27, 2015 3:33 PM

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What do you do when a problem is also a solution? Such is the case with exotic tamarisk (a.k.a., Tamarix spp., saltcedar), criticized for its ability to take over riverbanks, salinize soil, increase fire risk, and trap river sediments, among other ills. Tamarisk was introduced to the Western U.S. from Eurasia in the late 1800s, and over the next 50 years it was widely planted as a fast-growing, drought-resistant ornamental and riverbank stabilizer. However, the negative impacts of the tree were increasingly evident, leading to the passage of a national bill to address the issue.

Among the actions taken to reduce tamarisk populations was the development of a biological control agent, the tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda spp.), which eats the leaves in both its adult and larval (pictured above) stages. It was released in 2003 and currently is rapidly spreading, leaving a sea o...

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