Why trees along the Colorado River are suddenly brown

Local News

Mesa County, Colo. – The once green and vibrant tree line along the Colorado river is now turning brown.

People near the river have noticed the rapid decline of greenery, and are growing concerned – attributing it to the heat and drought conditions,

“That’s kind of what happens; things die when we have high temperatures and not a lot of water,” says Mesa County resident, Geneva Smith as she observed the dying plants at the river.

However, RiversEdge-West says the heat has nothing to do with it.

Tamarisk, the shrub turning brown, is an invasive plant occupying multiple Western waterways in the U.S. – like the Colorado River. The plant is so invasive, in fact, that the USDA decided to try and find a ‘predator’ to be the plant’s ‘natural enemy’.

Out of 300 organisms tested – one beetle came out on top: Now known as the Tamarisk Beetle.

The beetle was released in the 1980’s by the USDA to decrease the tree’s population size, and has since migrated across the country, to places like Mesa County,

“For those wondering how other agricultural crops are impacted by the Tamarisk Beetle, have no fear,” says KREX5’s Reilly Spence.

Prior to being released, the beetles were tested on agricultural crops to make sure they wouldn’t eat non-target species, and to everyone’s relief – they only eat Tamarisk,

“They either live because there’s tamarisk or they die because there’s not, so even if the chance was there-there’s just no time for them to learn to eat anything else, ” says RiversEdge-West’s Ben Bloodworth.

The green beetles will be present until the plants die out, according to RiversEdge. If you or anyone is still concerned about the dying Tamarisk Trees, RiversEdge-West encourages everyone to volunteer to plant more natural species trees and plants around the valley.

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