By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sep 7, 2016, 5:41 PM ET
It was a good plan: Bring in hungry beetles that feed only on nonnative salt cedar trees to get a handle on a hardy, invasive species that was crowding riverbanks across the West and leaching precious water from the drought-stricken region.
The beetles have been so successful in recent years that scientists are now concerned about the fate of an endangered songbird that lives along rivers and streams in several states.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey report provides more detail about habitat across the entire range of the Southwestern willow flycatcher. Using satellite modeling for the first time, the agency partnered with other federal scientists to predict new threats that could hamper the bird's recovery over the next decade.
By predicting the effects of tamarisk leaf beetles on the bird's habitat, the scientists hope satellite modeling can be used by land, water and wildlife managers as they try to balance protecting the bird with controlling the trees.
"Using this technology to evaluate how leaf beetle may affect flycatchers and its habitat across its range is a tremendous step forward in our understanding," said Greg Beatty, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.