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Old 08-06-2007   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Beetles vs. Tamarisk

The Denver Post - Asian beetles defeat tamarisk, naturally

Intersting article in the denver post about releasing beetles from asia that like to eat tamarisk. I have seen a handful of reports like this that follow the trend of...

1) Bring in non-native species for whatever silly reason
2) Oh shit, non-native species is a major menace
3) What are we going to do, non-native species is destroying or altering the ecosystem
4) Wait, wait... I got it, bring in ANOTHER non-native species to stop the first non-native species and everything will be ALL RIGHT!

Seems like the classic case of "two wrongs make a right". Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. I'm somewhat amazed that given the fairly well documented problems of bringing non-native species into new ecosystems that people still do it intentionally, even if they think its for a good reason.

I just hope we don't see a report in 15 years about the menacing tamarisk beetle that f'ed up the ecosystem...

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Old 08-06-2007   #2
DanOrion's Avatar
Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,448
If the tamarisk beetles could be taught to eat pine beetles, we'd be set. Have you seen the mountains this summer. Major damage from pine beetles during the past year, I'm shocked. Beetle kills could do more to the water supply than tamarisk...fires, faster runoff, more sublimation...getting a bit OT here but wow, I mean have you seen the brown hillsides near GMR and all over summit?

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Old 08-06-2007   #3
WhiteLightning's Avatar
Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 928
The solution to the beetle kill problem would be some fires of biblical proportions, but no one will listen to me and let nature run its course. I bet it will happen at some point as the beetles take over more and more acerage.
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Old 08-06-2007   #4
Durango, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 87
Of course this mindset has backfired in the past, but there was actually a substantial amount of research done on this project before the beetles were introduced.
First, the beetles and other insects of a similar nature were studied in their native countries to ensure they only ate Tamarisk.
Then a select few were brought to the U.S. and kept in laboratories and studied further.
Next, they were brought into enclosures in the wild to see if they would consume any native species (obviously because that would suck) and to see how they interacted within our ecosystem in general.
It was a challenge to even keep them alive at first. This research had taken place over approximately 10 years before they were released several years ago into areas in the Rio Grande drainage.
Long story short, Tamarisk really sucks and is going to turn our river corridors into a monocoulture without any intervention.
If you want more information on this subject you can contact the folks at the resource management departments for the Grand Canyon or at Dinosaur National Monument. Both agencies have stellar botanists and entemologists that have worked long and hard on solving the problems that we sit around and bitch about on the internet.
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Old 08-06-2007   #5
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 646
Tamarisk sucks. I sure hope these beetles work. It's great to hear it's looking good.

Here's an excerpt from the latest report:
After beetles were brought to the
US they were maintained in USDA quarantine laboratories in Texas and California
where they were subjected to further very extensive host range testing.
They were offered a wide selection of native plants and crop plants, either in
combination with tamarisk or in the .no choice. tests they were given only the
non-target plants. In these tests it was found that the beetles preferred tamarisk
to native plants and that in most cases they wouldn.t feed at all on non-target
plants, but would rather starve while in search of a tamarisk plant. Since then,
field tests have shown that when the insects finish feeding on tamarisk they do
not move over to the next green thing, but rather they fly or crawl off in search of
more tamarisk.

After host range testing showed that the risks from D. elongata were
minimal, beetles were released into test cages in 1999, followed by open field
releases at test sites in 2001. These open field tests have given us a good preview
of what to expect from the beetles which was not uniform success since there
were both failures and successes in these first releases. At some locations, such
as central Texas, the beetles did not establish field populations. At other
locations the beetles did astonishingly well in the open field.

About 1,500 adult beetles were released near the town of Lovelock,
Nevada, in 2001. Beetles multiplied to the point where about 2 acres of tamarisk
were completely defoliated at the end of the summer, 2002. From then on, the
results of biocontrol were evident on a grand scale: hundreds of acres of
tamarisk defoliated in 2003, thousands of acres defoliated in 2004 and by 2006
tens of thousands of acres had been defoliated over much of western central
Nevada. Similar results were seen in Lovell, Wyoming where beetles have
defoliated tamarisk along a 51 kilometer stretch of the Big Horn River. At a site
near Pueblo, Colorado, tamarisk trees have been defoliated for several years in a
row and near Delta, Utah thousands of acres have been defoliated. Getting back
to the Lovelock site; about 70% of the plants in the original defoliated area have
now been killed by the beetles following multiple defoliations over the course of
5 summers. It is clear that we are seeing a dramatic biological control success
story and the emergence of a powerful new tool in the fight against tamarisk
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