, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 647-658
Date: 27 Feb 2006

The Effects of Dust on the Federally Threatened Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

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We combined a natural experiment with field surveys and GIS to investigate the effects of dust from recreational trails and access roads on the federally threatened Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (“VELB,” Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) and its host plant, elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). Dust is listed in the species recovery plan as a threat to the VELB and unpaved surfaces are common throughout the riparian corridors where the VELB lives, yet the effects of dust on the VELB have been untested. We found that dust deposition varied among sites and was highest within 10 m of trails and roads, but was similar adjacent to dirt and paved surfaces within sites. Elderberry density did not differ with distance from dirt surfaces. Despite similar within-site dust levels, elderberry adjacent to paved surfaces were less stressed than those near dirt ones, possibly because increased runoff from paved surfaces benefited elderberry. Dust deposition across sites was weakly correlated with elderberry stress symptoms (e.g., water stress, dead stems, smaller leaves), indicating that ambient dust (or unmeasured correlates) influenced elderberry. Direct studies of the VELB showed that its distribution was not negatively affected by the proximity to dirt surfaces. Dust from low traffic dirt and paved access roads and trails, therefore, affected VELB presence neither directly nor indirectly through changed elderberry condition. These results suggest that the placement of VELB mitigation, restoration, and conservation areas can proceed independently of access roads if dust and traffic levels do not exceed those in our study site. Furthermore, dust control measures are likely to be unnecessary under such conditions. The potential effects of increased traffic and dust levels are addressed through a literature review.