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Journal of Arid Environments
Vol. 89, 2013; Page: 16 - 20

Plot- and landscape-level changes in climate and vegetation following defoliation of exotic saltcedar (Tamarix sp.) from the biocontrol agent Diorhabda carinulata along a stream in the Mojave Desert (USA)

H.L. Bateman, P.L. Nagler, E.P. Glenn

Arizona State University at the Polytechnic Campus, Department of Applied Sciences and Mathematics, 6073 S. Backus Mall, Mesa, AZ 85212, USA.


The biocontrol agent, northern tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda carinulata), has been used to defoliate non-native saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) in USA western riparian systems since 2001. Biocontrol has the potential to impact biotic communities and climatic conditions in affected riparian areas. To determine the relationships between biocontrol establishment and effects on vegetation and climate at the plot and landscape scales, we measured temperature, relative humidity, foliage canopy, solar radiation, and used satellite imagery to assess saltcedar defoliation and evapotranspiration (ET) along the Virgin River in the Mojave Desert. Following defoliation solar radiation increased, daily humidity decreased, and maximum daily temperatures tended to increase. MODIS and Landsat satellite imagery showed defoliation was widespread, resulting in reductions in ET and vegetation indices. Because biocontrol beetles are spreading into new saltcedar habitats on arid western rivers, and the eventual equilibrium between beetles and saltcedar is unknown, it is necessary to monitor trends for ecosystem functions and higher trophic-level responses in habitats impacted by biocontrol.

Keywords: Microclimate; NDVI; Remote-sensing; Riparian vegetation; Virgin River; Weed biocontrol



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