, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 361–376 | Cite as

A synoptic review of Tamarix biocontrol in North America: tracking success in the midst of controversy

  • Dan Bean
  • Tom Dudley


Woody shrubs in the genus Tamarix L. (Tamaricaceae) were introduced into western North America in the nineteenth century and have invaded riparian areas, acting as drivers of ecosystem change by altering fire cycles, soil chemistry, hydrology and native plant composition. The scope and severity of the invasions provided impetus for a classical weed biological control program using Diorhabda spp. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Since the first releases in 2001 Diorhabda spp. have moved into many of the areas dominated by Tamarix resulting in defoliations, canopy dieback, and in some locations substantial Tamarix mortality. Success of the program has been overshadowed by concern that Tamarix is used by a federally-listed bird sub-species, the southwestern willow flycatcher. The controversy has led to lawsuits, cancelled biological control research and release permits and to a negative perception of Tamarix biocontrol by some. Long term success is likely, but only with continued monitoring and riparian restoration will the program reach its full potential.


Weed biological control Tamarix Diorhabda Chrysomelidae Non-target impacts Willow flycatcher 



The authors would like to acknowledge the excellent work, professional commitment and humor that the late Rich Hansen brought to the Tamarix biological control program. He was the driving force behind the northern states implementation program and deserves full credit for program success. He will be deeply missed by the weed biological control community. The Tamarix biological control program has involved many more researchers and natural resources managers than we can acknowledge here, and will continue to require substantial effort from many in order to realize full program potential. For work within this review the authors would especially like to thank James Tracy, John Gaskin, Allard Cossé, Bob Bartelt, Patrick Moran and Jack DeLoach of the USDA ARS. We would also like to thank Debra Eberts and Ken Lair (US Bureau of Reclamation), Allen Knutson and Jerry Michels (Texas A&M University), David Thompson (New Mexico State University), Deborah Kennard and Zeynep Özsoy (Colorado Mesa University), Ben Bloodworth (Tamarisk Coalition), Sonya Ortega and Nina Louden (Colorado Department of Agriculture), Gail Drus (St. Francis University), Kevin Hultine (Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ), Levi Jamison (Northern Arizona University) and Bruce Orr and Glen Leverich (Stillwater Sciences). We would like to thank our overseas collaborators who make this and all weed biological control programs possible. We also thank the editors of this special issue and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions for improving the manuscript. Support has been from USDA-NIFA, Clark County, Nevada Desert Conservation Program, USFS Forest Health Protection, USDA-APHIS, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.


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Copyright information

© International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Colorado Department of AgriculturePalisadeUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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