Biological Invasions

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 709–720 | Cite as

Riparian bird density decline in response to biocontrol of Tamarix from riparian ecosystems along the Dolores River in SW Colorado, USA

  • Abigail J. Darrah
  • Charles van RiperIII
Original Paper


Biocontrol of invasive tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) in the arid Southwest using the introduced tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda elongata) has been hypothesized to negatively affect some breeding bird species, but no studies to date have documented the effects of beetle-induced defoliation on riparian bird abundance. We assessed the effects of tamarisk defoliation by monitoring defoliation rates, changes in vegetation composition, and changes in density of six obligate riparian breeding bird species at two sites along the Dolores River in Colorado following the arrival of tamarisk beetles. We conducted bird point counts from 2010 to 2014 and modeled bird density as a function of native vegetation density and extent of defoliation using hierarchical distance sampling. Maximum annual defoliation decreased throughout the study period, peaking at 32–37% in 2009–2010 and dropping to 0.5–15% from 2011–2014. Stem density of both tamarisk and native plants declined throughout the study period until 2014. Density of all bird species declined throughout most of the study, with Song Sparrow disappearing from the study sites after 2011. Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Yellow Warbler densities were negatively related to defoliation in the previous year, while Lazuli Bunting exhibited a positive relationship with defoliation. These findings corroborate earlier predictions of species expected to be sensitive to defoliation as a result of nest site selection. Tamarisk defoliation thus had short-term negative impacts on riparian bird species; active restoration may be needed to encourage the regrowth of native riparian vegetation, which in the longer-term may result in increased riparian bird density.


Defoliation Density Phenology Point counts Tamarisk beetles 



Funding was provided by the U. S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Science Center. The following people have assisted with the field aspects of this study: Sarah Puckett, Kiah Williams, Cherin Spencer-Bower, Caleb Arellano, Madison Furlong, Martin Beal, Tom Millican, Harold Greeney and especially George and Shirley Lerom. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Authors contributions

CVR conceived and designed the research, supervised and assisted with data collection, and edited the paper; AJD assisted with data collection, performed the analyses and wrote the paper.

Supplementary material

10530_2017_1569_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Audubon Mississippi, Coastal Bird Stewardship ProgramMoss PointUSA
  3. 3.US Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science CenterUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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