, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 605–616 | Cite as

Early impacts of biological control on canopy cover and water use of the invasive saltcedar tree (Tamarix spp.) in western Nevada, USA

  • Robert R. PattisonEmail author
  • Carla M. D’Antonio
  • Tom L. Dudley
  • Kip K. Allander
  • Benjamin Rice
Physiological ecology - Original Paper


The success of biological control programs is rarely assessed beyond population level impacts on the target organism. The question of whether a biological control agent can either partially or completely restore ecosystem services independent of population level control is therefore still open to discussion. Using observational and experimental approaches, we investigated the ability of the saltcedar leaf beetle [Diorhabda carinulata (Brullé) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)] to reduce the water use of saltcedar trees (Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb.) in two sites (Humboldt and Walker Rivers) in Nevada, USA. At these sites D. carinulata defoliated the majority of trees within 25 and 9 km, respectively, of the release location within 3 years. At the Humboldt site, D. carinulata reduced the canopy cover of trees adjacent to the release location by >90%. At a location 4 km away during the first year of defoliation, D. carinulata reduced peak (August) stem water use by 50−70% and stand transpiration (July to late September) by 75% (P = 0.052). There was, however, no reduction in stem water use and stand transpiration during the second year of defoliation due to reduced beetle abundances at that location. At the Walker site, we measured stand evapotranspiration (ET) in the center of a large saltcedar stand and found that ET was highest immediately prior to D. carinulata arrival, dropped dramatically with defoliation, and remained low through the subsequent 2 years of the study. In contrast, near the perimeter of the stand, D. carinulata did not reduce sap flow, partly because of low rates of defoliation but also because of increased water use per unit leaf area in response to defoliation. Taken together, our results provide evidence that in the early stages of population expansion D. carinulata can lead to substantial declines in saltcedar water use. The extent of these declines varies spatially and temporally and is dependent on saltcedar compensatory responses along with D. carinulata population dynamics and patterns of dispersal.


Defoliation Evapotranspiration Herbivory Sap flow 



Access to the field sites and logistical support were generously provided by the Brinkerhoff Ranch, Silver State Hunt Club and the Walker River Paiute Tribe. We thank A. Caires, M. Kernacker and N. Louden for field assistance and the staff of the USDA/ARS Exotic and Invasive Weed Research Unit–Reno, Nevada. Helpful comments on this manuscript were provided by J. Cleverly, M. Tumbusch and an anonymous reviewer. Experiments reported in this work comply with the current laws of the United States of America.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert R. Pattison
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Carla M. D’Antonio
    • 1
    • 5
  • Tom L. Dudley
    • 2
    • 6
  • Kip K. Allander
    • 3
  • Benjamin Rice
    • 1
  1. 1.Exotic and Invasive Weed Research UnitUSDA/ARSRenoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyRenoUSA
  4. 4.Anchorage Forestry Sciences LaboratoryUSDA/FSAnchorageUSA
  5. 5.Ecology, Evolution & Marine BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  6. 6.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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