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Kill a Plant to Save the West


Anyone who runs rivers in the western US cannot help but to know about TAMARISK. They're pretty, feathery shrubs that crowd the riverbanks and flower in pink. In fact they are introduced from Asia. Like kudzu they were planted to prevent erosion but then took off. We call them "tammies"--or some call them "toiletwood" because they burn like shit and smell like piss. River runners aren't shy about sculpting the tammies to suit their camping needs.

http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2007/01/to_save_the_west_kill_a_plant.php
This article tries to put an optimistic face on the tammie invasion, but far as I know there is no stopping this plant. Groups of people working VERY hard can eradicate it from small areas (Marijka can attest) but eliminating it from the entire west is impossible....or seems that way. They produce gadzillions of seeds that fly in the wind, and have brutally long taproots once established. The one suggestion that I have heard that could possibly work: genetically modify the plant such that seeds are not generated, or are not fertile.

People get all upset about genetic modification of food (want fish genes in your corn?) but I think it is the only technology we have that has a chance of changing the direction of this ecosystem-wide foreign plant invasion.

Comments

neptunia67
Jan. 28th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
The beetle idea is interesting. I guess they only eat tamarisk (I HOPE they only eat tamarisk)...
liveonearth
Jan. 30th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
You never know what will happen when you introduce another non-native species. The rabbit infestation of Australia was a surprise. The brown tree snakes of Guam aren't supposed to be there, but the population is out of hand. I don't like introducing species to control introduced species. Very messy. But the trend is unstoppable. Humans have already completely reorganized the species on this planet and we're not done yet!

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