Invasive Plants: Tamarisk

Posted on March 11, 2007  Comments (4)

To Save the West, Kill a Plant by Josh McDaniel:

The tamarisk, an invasive species introduced to the United States from Eurasia, is a deep-rooted plant that aggressively obtains water from the soil and groundwater. A single mature tree can produce up to 500,000 seeds per year, crowding out native plants along rivers and creeks and reducing wildlife habitat. The species now infests all the major rivers, springs, ditches, and wetlands in ten states—including Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and California—and is rapidly expanding into others.

In the delicately dry ecosystems of the southwestern United States, that is a serious problem, adding up to over 800 billion gallons of lost water per year across the parched region. “That is equal to the water needs of 20 million people or one million acres of irrigated farmland,” said Tim Carlson, an environmental engineer and director of the Tamarisk Coalition, which aims to control the plant.

Living systems include risks for those that attempt to engineer improvement. The past is littered with examples of attempts to intervene that go wrong.

“One night, after I gave a presentation on tamarisk, an older gentleman came up to me and told me that he had earned his Eagle Scout rank by planting tamarisk to prevent soil erosion after the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s,” Carlson recalled. “He said he would gladly earn it again by helping me remove it.”

I don’t think there is a simple answer. We are going to have intentional and unintentional consequences results from our actions. To me the lesson is to learn from our past that we often have unintended consequences that are worse than we envisioned and we need to be careful. We can’t assume there are no risks that we don’t know about. There are risks we can’t predict.

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4 Responses to “Invasive Plants: Tamarisk”

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    March 25th, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

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    April 21st, 2008 @ 12:08 am

    The most likely scenario, said Garbelotto, is that the pathogen arrived in California through the nursery trade, and that it then spread from the nursery in Santa Cruz to trees bordering the facility…

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