• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.

2012 SCIENCE PROJECTS

Effects of Biocontrol and Restoration on Wildlife in Southwestern Riparian Habitats

Science Need(s)

Improve monitoring and inventory of watersheds and ecosystems (including invasive species)

Grantee: Arizona State University
Principle Investigators: Heather L. Bateman, Matthew J. Johnson, Robert Dobbs, Tom Dudley, Michael Kuehn
Cooperative Agreement: $180,938 in non-Federal funds
Project Duration: 2012-2015

Project Goal(s)

Determine the effects of saltcedar biocontrol and riparian restoration on wildlife habitat and food resources along the Virgin River; relate biocontrol changes in habitat structure and composition to wildlife communities (avifauna and herpetofauna) along the Virgin River; and relate changes in food resources to avifauna and herpetofauna diet composition along the Virgin River.

Brief Project Description

Our proposal addresses Funding Category Ill by evaluating natural resource management practices and adaptation opportunities. More specifically, our project addresses Science Need #6 to improve monitoring and inventory of watersheds and ecosystems (including invasive species). Our proposed study will occur within the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) (upper Virgin River, UT) and the Desert LCC (lower Virgin River, AZ and NVL and therefore will be submitting to both cooperatives. Invasive saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is the third most abundant tree in Southwestern riparian systems (Friedman et al. 2005). Resource managers must often balance the management goals of protecting wildlife species and habitats with control of non-native and invasive plants. This project will determine if the introduction of the biocontrol agent (tamarisk leaf beetle, Diorhabda spp.) as an insect consumer and defoliator of saltcedar influences wildlife populations and communities via alterations to food resources and/or habitat. By taking advantage of an unprecedented natural experiment and two years of pre-biocontrol monitoring, the researchers will track changes in amphibian and reptile (herpetofauna), and avian communities as biocontrol enters a system dominated by a non-native plant species. The investigators predict that the introduction and proliferation of the biocontrol beetle will affect wildlife groups because this insect is known to be eaten by several wildlife species and because it causes defoliation of its host plant, thereby altering the physical habitat. This work expands upon preliminary research by the investigators which focused on relating wildlife populations and communities to habitat structure in a non-native plant ecosystem prior to the establishment of biocontrol. Our results can help to inform decisions made by natural resource managers by providing guidance on how wildlife species respond (either positively or negatively) to management actions such as biocontrol in riparian habitats.

Project Location

Upper Virgin River (Utah) and Lower Virgin River (Arizona & Nevada)

Project Tasks

  • Select Study Areas (Start Date 3/1/2013).
  • Conceptual Models.
  • Wildlife Field Studies (Herpetofauna and Avian monitoring in Study Area I and II).
  • Wildlife Diets (Herpetofauna and Avian diet data collection and analyses).
  • Habitat Measures in Study Area I and II.
  • Wildlife-Habitat Analyses.
  • Submit draft project report for review.
  • Revise draft and submit final report (End Date 2/28/2015).

Project Deliverables

  • Conceptual models of ecological effects on species populations for each species.
  • Conceptual models of ecological effect of how habitat-wildlife relations change before and following biocontrol establishment.
  • Publication comparing wildlife communities in Tamarix habitat before and following biocontrol establishment and management recommendations for the Lower Colorado system in preparation for biocontrol.

Documents Available for Download