Regional scale impacts of Tamarix leaf beetles (Diorhabda carinulata) on the water availability of western U.S. rivers as determined by multi-scale remote sensing methods

Remote Sensing of Environment

, , , , , , , and
DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.11.011



Tamarix leaf beetles (Diorhabda carinulata) have been widely released on western U.S. rivers to control introduced shrubs in the genus Tamarix. Part of the motivation to control Tamarix is to salvage water for human use. Information is needed on the impact of beetles on Tamarix seasonal leaf production and subsequent water use overwide areas andmultiple cycles of annual defoliation.Herewe combine ground data with high resolution phenocam imagery and moderate resolution (Landsat) and coarser resolution (MODIS) satellite imagery to test the effects of beetles on Tamarix evapotranspiration (ET) and leaf phenology at sites on six western rivers. Satellite imagery covered the period 2000 to 2010 which encompassed years before and after beetle release at each study site. Phenocam images showed that beetles reduced green leaf cover of individual canopies by about 30% during a 6-8 week period in summer, but plants produced new leaves after beetles became dormant in August, and over three years no net reduction in peak summer leaf production was noted. ETwas estimated by vegetation index methods, and both Landsat and MODIS analyses showed that beetles reduced ET markedly in the first year of defoliation, but ET recovered in subsequent years. Over all six sites, ET decreased by 14% to 15% by Landsat and MODIS estimates, respectively. However, resultswere variable among sites, ranging fromno apparent effect on ET to substantial reduction in ET. Baseline ET rates before defoliation were low, 394 mmyr-1 by Landsat and 314 mm yr-1 by MODIS estimates (20-25% of potential ET), further constraining the amount of water that could be salvaged. Beetle-Tamarix interactions are in their early stage of development on this continent and it is too soon to predict the eventual extent towhich Tamarix populationswill be reduced. The utility of remote sensing methods for monitoring defoliation was constrained by the small area covered by each phenocamimage, the low temporal resolution of Landsat, and the lowspatial resolution ofMODIS imagery. Even combined image sets did not adequately reveal the details of the defoliation process, and remote sensing data should be combined with ground observations to develop operational monitoring protocols.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Regional scale impacts of Tamarix leaf beetles (Diorhabda carinulata) on the water availability of western U.S. rivers as determined by multi-scale remote sensing methods
Series title:
Remote Sensing of Environment
Year Published:
Publisher location:
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s):
Southwest Biological Science Center
14 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Remote Sensing of Environment
First page:
Last page:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Big Horn River;Humbolt River;Lower Delores River;Middle-upper Delores River;Upper Colorado River;Walker River