Skip to main content Accessibility help

Modeling Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) Habitat and Climate Change Effects in the Northwestern United States

  • Becky K. Kerns (a1), Bridgett J. Naylor (a2), Michelle Buonopane (a3), Catherine G. Parks (a2) and Brendan Rogers (a4)...


Tamarisk species are shrubs or small trees considered by some to be among the most aggressively invasive and potentially detrimental exotic plants in the United States. Although extensively studied in the southern and interior west, northwestern (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) distribution and habitat information for tamarisk is either limited or lacking. We obtained distribution data for the northwest, developed a habitat suitability map, and projected changes in habitat due to climate change in a smaller case study area using downscaled climate data. Results show extensive populations of tamarisk east of the Cascade Mountains. Despite the perceived novelty of tamarisk in the region, naturalized populations were present by the 1920s. Major population centers are limited to the warmest and driest environments in the central Snake River Plain, Columbia Plateau, and Northern Basin and Range. Habitat suitability model results indicate that 21% of the region supports suitable tamarisk habitat. Less than 1% of these areas are occupied by tamarisk; the remainder is highly vulnerable to invasion. Although considerable uncertainty exists regarding future climate change, we project a 2- to 10-fold increase in highly suitable tamarisk habitat by the end of the century. Our habitat suitability maps can be used in “what if” exercises as part of planning, detection, restoration, management, and eradication purposes.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail:


Hide All
Bailey, J. K., Schweitzer, J. A., and Whitham, T. G. 2001. Salt cedar negatively affects biodiversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Wetlands 21:442447.
Baum, B. R. 1978. The Genus Tamarix. Jerusalem Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 209.
Birken, A. S. and Cooper, D. J. 2006. Processes of Tamarix invasion and floodplain development along the lower Green River, Utah. Ecol. Appl 16:11031120.
Bony, S., Colman, R., Fichefet, T., et al. 2007. Climate models and their evaluation. Working Group I Report: The physical science basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report.
Bradley, B. A., Oppenheimer, M., and Wilcove, D. S. 2009. Climate change and plant invasions: restoration opportunities ahead? Glob. Change Biol. DOI: 10.111/j.1365-2486.2008.01824.x.
Braunisch, V., Bollmann, K., Graf, R., and Hirzel, A. 2008. Living on the edge—modeling habitat suitability for species at the edge of their fundamental niche. Ecol. Model 214:153167.
Cleverly, J., Smith, S., Sala, A., and Devitt, D. 1997. Invasive capacity of Tamarix ramosissima in a Mohave Desert floodplain: the role of drought. Oecologia 111:1218.
Cohn, J. P. 2005. Tiff over tamarisk: can a nuisance be nice, too? Bioscience 55:648654.
Daly, C., Halbleib, M., Smith, J. I., Gibson, W. P., Doggett, M. K., Taylor, G. H., Curtis, J., and Pasteris, P. A. 2008. Physiographically sensitive mapping of climatological temperature and precipitation across the conterminous United States. Int. J. Climatol. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1688.
Daly, C., Smith, J. I., and McKane, R. 2007. High-resolution spatial modeling of daily weather elements for a catchment in the Oregon Cascade Mountains, United States. J. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol 46:15651586.
Davis, A. J., Jenkinson, L. S., Lawton, J. L., Shorrocks, B., and Wood, S. 1998. Making mistakes when predicting shifts in species range in response to global warming. Nature 391:783786.
DiTomaso, J. M. 1998. Impact, biology, and ecology of salt-cedar (Tamarix spp.) in the southwestern United States. Weed Technol 12:326336.
Friedman, J. M., Auble, G. T., Shafroth, P. B., Scott, M. L., Merigliano, M. F., Freehling, M. D., and Griffin, E. R. 2005. Dominance of non-native riparian trees in western USA. Biol. Invasions 7:747751.
Friedman, J. M., Roelle, J. E., Gaskin, J. F., and Roth, J. 2007. Has Tamarix undergone rapid evolution of latitudinal variation in cold hardiness?. San Jose, CA: Ecological Society of America Meeting. [Abstract].
Gaskin, J. F. and Schaal, B. A. 2002. Hybrid Tamarix widespread in U.S. invasion and undetected in native Asian range. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99:11,25611,259.
Glenn, E. P. 2005. Comparative ecophysiology of Tamarix ramosissima and native trees in western U.S. riparian zones. J. Arid Environ 61:419446.
Glenn, E. P. and Nagler, P. L. 2005. Comparative ecophysiology of Tamarix ramosissima and native trees in western U.S. riparian zones. J. Arid Environ 61:419446.
Guisan, A. and Zimmermann, N. E. 2000. Predictive habitat distribution models in ecology. Ecol. Model 135:147186.
Hampe, A. 2004. Bioclimate envelope models: what they detect and what they hide. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr 13:469476.
Hijmans, R. J. and Graham, C. H. 2006. The ability of climate envelope models to predict the effect of climate change on species distributions. Glob. Change Biol 12:22722281.
Hirzel, A. H. and Arlettaz, R. 2003. Modelling habitat suitability for complex species distributions by the environmental-distance geometric mean. Env. Manag 32:614623.
Hirzel, A. H., Hausser, J., Chessel, D., and Perrin, N. 2002. Ecological-niche factor analysis: how to compute habitat suitability maps without absence data? Ecol 83:20272036.
Hirzel, A. H., Hausser, J., and Perrin, N. 2004. Biomapper Users Manuel. University of Lausanne: Lab of Conservation Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolution.
Hirzel, A. H., Le Lay, G., Helfer, V., Randin, C., and Guisan, A. 2006. Evaluating the ability of habitat suitability models to predict species presence. Ecol. Model 199:142152.
Horton, J. and Clark, J. 2001. Water table decline alters growth and survival of Salix gooddingii and Tamarix chinensis seedlings. For. Ecol. Manag 140:239247.
Horton, J., Kolb, T., and Hart, S. 2001. Responses of riparian trees to interannual variation in ground water depth in a semi-arid river basin. Plant Cell. Environ 24:293304.
Hutchinson, G. E. 1957. Concluding remarks. Pages 415427. in. Cold Spring Harbour Symposium on Quantitative Biology. New York Long Island Biological Association.
[IPCC] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2000. Special Report on Emission Scenarios. Accessed: June 4, 2009.
IPCC 2007. Summary for Policymakers. Fourth Assessment Report. Accessed: June 4, 2009.
Kennedy, T. A., Finlay, J. C., and Hobbie, S. E. 2005. Eradication of invasive Tamarix ramosissima along a desert stream increases native fish density. Ecol. Appl 15:20722083.
Ladenburger, C. G., Hild, A. L., Kazmer, D. J., and Munn, L. C. 2006. Soil salinity patterns in Tamarix invasions in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA. J. Arid. Environ 65:111128.
Lesica, P. and DeLuca, T. H. 2004. Is tamarisk allelopathic? Plant Soil 267:357365.
Lesica, P. and Miles, S. 2001. Tamarisk growth at the northern margin of its naturalized range in Montana, USA. Wetlands 21:240246.
Lite, S. J. and Stromberg, J. C. 2005. Surface water and ground-water thresholds for maintaining PopulusSalix forests, San Pedro River, Arizona. Biol. Conserv 125:153167.
Martinez-Meyer, E. 2005. Climate change and biodiversity: some considerations in forecasting shifts in species' potential distributions. Biodivers. Inf 2:4255.
McKenney, D. W., Pedlar, J. H., Lawrence, K., Campbell, K., and Hutchinson, M. K. 2007. Potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of North American trees. BioScience 57:939948.
Meehl, G. A., Covey, C., Delworth, T., Latif, M., McAvaney, B., Mitchell, J. F. B., Stouffer, R. J., and Taylor, K. E. 2007. The WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset: a new era in climate change research. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc 88:13831394.
Morisette, J. T., Jarnevich, C. S., Ullah, A., Cai, W. J., Pedelty, J. A., Gentle, J. E., Stohlgren, T. J., and Schnase, J. L. 2006. A tamarisk habitat suitability map for the continental United States. Front. Ecol. Environ 4:1117.
[NAIP] National Agriculture Imagery Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture 2004–2006. Request for Aerial Photography. Accessed February 1, 2007.
Neilson, R. P., Pitelka, L. F., Solomon, A. M., Nathan, R., Midgley, G. F., Fragoso, J. M. V., Lischke, H., and Thompson, K. 2005. Forecasting regional to global plant migration in response to climate change. BioScience 55:749759.
Owen, J. C., Sogge, M. K., and Kern, M. D. 2005. Habitat and sex differences in physiological condition of breeding Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus). Auk 122:2611270.
Pearce, C. M. and Smith, D. G. 2003. Tamarisk: distribution, abundance, and dispersal mechanisms, northern Montana, USA. Wetlands 23:215228.
Pearson, R. G. and Dawson, T. P. 2003. Predicting the impacts of climate change on the distribution of species: are bioclimate envelope models useful? Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr 12:361371.
Pearson, R. G. and Dawson, T. P. 2004. Bioclimate envelope models: what they detect and what they hide—response to Hampe (2004). Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr 13:471473.
Pratt, R. B. and Black, R. A. 2006. Do invasive trees have a hydraulic advantage over native trees? Biol. Invasions 8:13311341.
Rehfeldt, G., Crookston, N. L., Warwell, M. V., and Evans, J. S. 2006. Empirical analyses of plant–climate relationships for the western United States. Int. J. Plant Sci 167:11231150.
Rehfeldt, G., Ferguson, D. E., and Crookston, N. L. 2008. Quantifying the abundance of co-occurring conifers along inland northwest (USA) climate gradients. Ecology 89:21272139.
Roe, G. H. and Baker, M. B. 2007. Why is climate sensitivity so unpredictable? Science 318:629632.
Sexton, J. P., McKay, J. K., and Sala, A. 2002. Plasticity and genetic diversity may allow tamarisk to invade cold climates in North America. Ecol. Appl 12:16521660.
Sexton, J. P., Sala, A., and Murray, K. 2006. Occurrence, persistence, and expansion of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) populations in the great plains of Montana. West. N. Am. Nat 66:111.
Shafroth, P. B., Auble, G. T., Stromberg, J. C., and Patten, D. T. 1998. Establishment of woody riparian vegetation in relation to annual patterns of streamflow, Bill Williams River, Arizona. Wetlands 18:577590.
Shafroth, P. B., Beauchamp, V. B., Briggs, M. K., Lair, K., Scott, M. L., and Sher, A. A. 2008. Planning riparian restoration in the context of Tamarix control in the western United States. Restor. Ecol 16:97112.
Shafroth, P. B., Cleverly, J. R., Dudley, T. L., Taylor, J. P., Van Riper, C., Weeks, E. P., and Stuart, J. N. 2005. Control of Tamarix in the western United States: implications for water salvage, wildlife use, and riparian restoration. Environ. Manag 35:231246.
Stein, B. A. and Flack, S. R. 1996. America's Least Wanted: Alien Species Invasions of U.S. Ecosystems. Arlington, VA The Nature Conservancy.
Stromberg, J. and Chew, M. 2002. Foreign visitors in riparian corridors of the American Southwest: is xenophobia justified? 195219. In Tellman, B. Invasive exotic species in the Sonoran region. Tucson, AZ University of Arizona Press.
Thomas, C. D., Cameron, A., Green, R. E., et al. 2004. Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427:145148.
VEMAP Members 1995. Vegetation/ecosystem modeling and analysis project: comparing biogeography and biogeochemistry models in a continental-scale study of terrestrial ecosystem responses to climate change and CO2 doubling. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 9:407437.
Zavaleta, E. 2000a. The economic value of controlling an invasive shrub. Ambio 29:462467.
Zavaleta, E. 2000b. Valuing ecosystem services lost to Tamarix invasion in the United States. Pages 261300. In Mooney, H. A. and Dobbs, R. J. Invasive species in a changing world. Washington, DC Island.
Zavaleta, E. S. and Royval, J. L. 2001. Climate change and the susceptibility of U.S. ecosystems to biological invasions: two cases of expected range expansion. Pages 277342. in Schneider, S. H. and Root, T. L. Wildlife responses to climate change: North American case studies. Washington, DC Island.


Modeling Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) Habitat and Climate Change Effects in the Northwestern United States

  • Becky K. Kerns (a1), Bridgett J. Naylor (a2), Michelle Buonopane (a3), Catherine G. Parks (a2) and Brendan Rogers (a4)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed