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Impact of the arundo wasp, Tetramesa romana (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae), on biomass of the invasive weed, Arundo donax (Poaceae: Arundinoideae), and on revegetation of riparian habitat along the Rio Grande in Texas

Patrick J. Moran, Ann T. Vacek, Alexis E. Racelis, Paul D. Pratt, John A. Goolsby
Biocontrol science and technology 2017 v.27 no.1 pp. 96-114
Arundo donax, Tetramesa, adults, biomass, ecosystems, germination, habitats, indigenous species, invasive species, land restoration, models, mortality, plant communities, plants (botany), riparian areas, rivers, shoots, Mexico, Texas
An invasive grass, Arundo donax , occupies thousands of hectares of arid riparian habitat along the Rio Grande in Texas and Mexico, and has negative impacts on national security, water resources, and riparian ecosystems. The shoot-tip-galling wasp Tetramesa romana was released in 2009 between Brownsville and Del Rio, Texas, and has dispersed over 800 km along the river channel. Plots along the river were surveyed for shoot counts of arundo and all other plant species in 2016 at seven sites in regions in which prior studies had documented a 22% decline in arundo biomass (estimated from live shoot length) from 2007 to 2014. Estimated live biomass declined a further 32% between 2014 and 2016. Native plants accounted for 86% of the 44 species encountered in plots. Individual plots averaged five plant species, and arundo was most abundant in only 9 of 21 plots. Arundo live biomass and shoot density were negatively associated with plant diversity, indicating that live arundo interferes with germination and/or survival of other plant species. The proportion of dead shoots in plots, proportion of wasp-galled shoots, and density of exit holes made by emerging adult wasps per metre live main shoot length were positively associated with plant diversity in a combined model. Regressions indicated that the effects of wasp damage measures on diversity were mediated through their effects on main shoot mortality. By reducing live arundo biomass, the arundo wasp is fostering recovery of native plant communities at riparian sites along the Rio Grande.