Utilizing Invasive Tree Species Biomass While Restoring Harvested Areas to Low Water Utilization Species.

Project ID: 6985
Principal Investigator: Ken Lair
Research Topic: Invasive Species
Funded Fiscal Years: 2005
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can the biomass of highly invasive woody species such as saltcedar, Russian olive and Siberian elm be utilized for commercial products? Can areas cleared of these invasive trees to restored to grasses and shrubs which will prevent the re-invasion of these woody species while preventing erosion, lessening fire hazard and improving wildlife habitat in these areas? In general, native grasses and shrubs utilize less water than saltcedar, Russian olive and Siberian elm. Can these woody resources be recovered (used to fuel portable power generation plants, made into composite siding, etc.) through the Xeri Resource Recovery process in order to supplement and recover the cost of controlling these invasive species while restoring the lands where they grow?

Need and Benefit

Three invasive tree species, saltcedar, Russian olive, and Siberian elm, are rapidly increasing their ranges in the 17 western states, choking out native riparian willows and cottonwood species. Because these invasives are phreatophytes (ground water users) there is currently heightened interest in controlling them, in investigating whether their biomass can be used to generate income, and in investigating species to be planted in their stead which will prevent these invasives from re-establishing, which will prevent erosion, which will be less of a fire hazard, and which will provide better quality wildlife habitat.

Reclamation's TSC Ecological Research & Investigations Group(D-8220) staff have been working with the chemical control of saltcedar since the 1940s and with biological control of saltcedar since 1999. D-8220 staff have been in involved in vegetation restoration of monotypic saltcedar stands since 2000. This proposal investigates using harvested saltcedar for creating products with commercial value which could offset the costs of controlling and restoring saltcedar infested lands. This study will also develop and test seed mixtures and species suitable for restoring areas on the Pecos River where saltcedar forms large monotypic stands which can be harvested for commercial purposes.

Reclamation has not determined whether or not harvested saltcedar can have commercial value. This study will fund a feasibility study to determine if saltcedar can be used for such products as fuel for portable power generation plants, or be made into stove pellets, composite wood siding or some other commercial product, using the Xeri Resource Recovery process cited in Proposal 4658 "Survey of Possibilities for the Reduction of Operation and Management Costs for Salvinia molesta and Other Invasive Aquatic Weed Species by Identification of Productive and Potentially Profitable Use of Biomass Utilizing ZERI Principles" (Denise Hosler is the P.I.).

The study, Stabilization of Water Facility Lands Following Removal of Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.), addresses restoration of monotypic saltcedar stands on the Middle Rio Grande and is identifying and testing seed mixes suitable for Middle Rio Grande sites. Seed mixes for the Pecos River, particularly for those segments within the Chihuanhuan desert, will be different from those used along the Rio Grand and need to be identified and tested.

This research addresses Reclamation's mission "...to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public". This project supports S&T Program Focus Area Water Supply-3: "Reduce Invasive Species Impacts on Water Delivery".

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

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Last Updated: 4/4/17