Are they killing the invasive salt cedar (tamarisk) too rapidly?

The Salt Lake Tribune has an alarming story how the beetle Diorhabda elongata , native to Kazakhstan and introduced recently to kill tamarisk, is doing it too rapidly. This is because there is apparently no plan to restore the native riparian vegetation the tamarisk crowded out years ago.

While this may be true, I am not convinced that the rapid elimination of the salt cedar is a bad thing. It has taken over thousands of miles of the rare riparian areas of the Southwest.

Pest-control beetle turning into pest? Environment » U. study document rapid defoliation caused by bug brought to control invasive tamarisk plant. By Brian Maffly. The Salt Lake Tribune.

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It should be noted that there are countless examples of plants, animals, and insects introduced to control foreign invaders becoming as bad as what they were intended to kill. I would venture to say there are almost always unintended side-effects, but there have been successes too.


 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

6 Responses to Salt cedar control beetle turning into an introduced pest?

  1. avatar Virginia says:

    One of my many summer jobs was working with a biologist at the BLM and we spent a lot of the late summer and fall trying to get rid of salt cedar – by chopping and burning – to no avail. He hated the stuff and wanted to get rid of it in the worst way, but it had just spread too far. I am always amazed at the stupid ways agencies come up with to deal with problems such as the salt cedar and it seems to always come back to bite them in the butt! What were they thinking? After that summer, we visited our son in a new subdivision where the developers had planted tamarisk because it was so “ornamental!”

  2. avatar Tom Page says:

    Having worked hard to help eliminate tammies (successfully) from Eagle County, Colorado, several years ago, I am familiar with the grunt labor it takes to remove them. I can’t imagine how killing them too fast would create a greater problem, as there might only be one plant that I would fear as a replacement – cheatgrass.

    Tammies are a biological desert in my experience, and virtually impenetrable to anything larger than bobcat, practically. I’d much rather have to do restoration by the seat of my pants.

  3. avatar Pronghorn says:

    According to the article, the problem of rapid tamarisk removal is the loss of shade–a lesson I painfully learned when I first moved to the Southwest. I thinned a bunch of overgrown shrubbery only to have everything else fry to death!

    I’m convinced that this sort of thing will be our undoing as a species–the sheer hubris of humans to think that we can manipulate/control, “fix” nature.

  4. avatar Tom Page says:

    We didn’t have that problem in Colorado – it was on the river in a canyon with reasonably moderate temperatures most of the year. The project was near the Interstate in some places though, and the road provided a fertile source for fun plants like Russian knapweed, thistle and that nasty whitetop.

    In some instances I agree with you on restoration projects, but I’ve seen too many efforts that have had a positive effect on biodiversity and native species to give it up.

  5. avatar paulWTAMU says:

    We still try to introduce one species to deal with another? /facepalm. When has that worked?

  6. avatar Mar says:

    We need the water that these weeds consume more than we need to worry about anything else here in mid-state Colorado. Where can one buy the beetles?

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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