Satellite to spy on tree munching bugs

More than 150 years after tamarisk, a small Eurasian tree, started taking over river banks in south-western US, saltcedar leaf beetles were unleashed to defoliate the “exotic invader”, says a press release from the University of Utah.

Now, researchers from the university say it is feasible to use satellite data to monitor the extent of the beetle’s attack on tamarisk, and whether use of the beetles may backfire with unintended environmental consequences.

“We don’t have any idea of the long-term impacts of using the beetles; their release may have unexpected repercussions,” says Philip Dennison, an assistant professor of geography and the study’s lead author.

“The impact of this defoliation is largely unknown,” adds co-author Kevin Hultine, a research assistant professor of biology.

“The net impact of controlling tamarisk could be positive or negative.

“We would like on-the-ground scientists and managers to understand and think about the long-term impact – what are these riparian [riverbank] areas going to look like 15 years from now, and how can we can maintain ecosystems,” Professor Hultine observes.

The findings, carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Utah and the US Geological Survey (USGS), are expected to be pubished online in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

Source: University of Utah press release

Date: 09/03/2009

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