Monday, March 16, 2009
Out Of Biocontrol
An excellent piece in the Salt Lake City Weekly about the current furor over the impact that a beetle released to attack invasive tamarisk shrubs (Tamarix spp., saltcedar) is having on an endangered bird. Seems the releases of leaf beetle Diorhabda elongata as a biocontrol were a lot more successful than people had anticipated, often leading to massive tamarisk defoliations that left the nests of the Southwestern willow flycatcher completely exposed. Add to that some miscommunication between state and federal agencies and the tendency of tamarisk to take over wide swarths of riparian land, and you've got...a complicated situation.
Tip of the virtual hat to the Aridzona Weed News Forum for posting a link to this article.
Labels: beetles, biological control, insects, tamarisk, USA
If there is a furor, it's only because the people involved are clueless. This issue has been a well known problem for years - so along with tamarisk control, restoration of willows is necessary. In fact, even without the complication of the flycatchers, this is just the situation where restoration absolutely needs to be a part of the project, or it's pointless.
The idea that this is biocontrol gone "awry" is ridiculous. This is one case in which the agent did absolutely what it was supposed to do. Those who claimed not to anticipate the result were not doing their jobs - i.e. getting the money to do accompanying restoration projects. (And the article greatly understates the damage done by tamarisk when left to its own devices.)
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