Grand Canyon National Park Ecosystem Threatened by Kazakhsta

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Grand Canyon National Park Ecosystem Threatened by Kazakhsta

Post by edfrank » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:15 am

Grand Canyon National Park Ecosystem Threatened by Kazakhstan Beetle? ... lycatcher/

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Anne Minard
for National Geographic News
Published April 21, 2011
Tamarisk trees are invading, crowding out native trees along rivers in the southwestern United States. But their removal could further imperil the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, a sparrow-sized songbird. For decades biologists have tried to remove tamarisk—which grows up to 16 feet tall—manually and with herbicides and other strategies. But they are still losing ground to the sprawling tree. Now, some scientists fear that one of those strategies—an imported, tamarisk-munching beetle—could become a scourge in its own right, wiping out tamarisk trees too quickly for other species in the ecosystem to adapt.

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The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) began importing salt cedar leaf beetles in the late 1990s from Kazakhstan and other regions where they feast naturally on tamarisk trees. Starting in 2001, land managers in all the southwestern states—except Arizona and New Mexico—began releasing them into tamarisk thickets. Based on input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no beetles were released within 200 miles of nesting locations for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird endangered since 1995 that now appears to rely on tamarisk trees, nesting in them even when native trees are still around.
he fear is that if the beetles kill tamarisk too fast, it will be a hit to wildlife species that have gotten used to them, especially the endangered flycatchers. Furthermore, without native trees to fill in the gaps left by dead tamarisk, other weedy invasives, like Russian knapweed, Russian thistle, pepperweed, and camelthorn, could take up occupancy. Many of these species are known for being water hogs, taking more out of the river than native species such as willow.
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