Tamarisk (Tamarix) species are among the most successful and economically costly plant invaders in the western United States, in part due to its potential to remove large amounts of water from shallow aquifers. Accordingly, local, state and federal agencies have released a new biological control - the saltcedar leaf beetle (Diorhabda elongata) along many watersheds in the western United States to reduce the spread of tamarisk. The beetle defoliates tamarisk for much of the growing season resulting in potentially large seasonal declines in productivity, fitness, and water loss from tamarisk stands. We measured sap flux density (Js) using heat dissipation sensors to investigate water use patterns of tamarisk before, during and after a single, six week beetle-induced defoliation event in southeastern, Utah, USA. Granier-style probes were installed on 20 dominant trees from May through September 2008, a period that covers almost the entire growing season. As the beetle emerged from dormancy in mid-June, daytime and nighttime Js measurably increased for approximately two weeks before declining to less than 20% of predicted values (predicted by modeling Js with atmospheric vapor pressure deficit in May and June before defoliation). Tamarisk trees in mid-August produced new leaves and Js returned to pre-defoliation levels. Total Js, summed over the duration of the study was 13% lower than predicted values. These data suggest that defoliation results in only small changes in seasonal water loss from tamarisk stands. Current research is focusing on long-term ecohydrological impacts of tamarisk defoliation over multiple growing seasons.
Additional Publication Details
Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) water fluxes before, during and after episodic defoliation by the saltcedar leaf beetle