Invasive Species: Tamarisk's Use of Water

  • Released Monday, February 6th, 2006
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:55PM
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Experts now estimate that Tamarisk (saltcedar) has infested more than 3.3 million acres in the western United States. Tamarisk is one of our most harmful invasive species because the plant's long roots tap into underground aquifers. Its groundwater-absorbing qualities may be adding to the severity of the drought in the western U.S.

NASA and the USGS are working together to develop a National Invasive Species Forecasting System (ISFS) for the management and control of invasive species. The ISFS combines NASA Earth observations and models with field data to enhance USGS capabilities to map, monitor and predict the spread of significant invasive plant species.

Tamarisk's extensive root system can reach up to 50 feet laterally and 100 feet in depth to access the water supply. As this invasive plant draws up large amounts of water, it can lower the water table. Native plants with shallower root systems have to compete for an already-dwindling water supply. One large Tamarisk plant can absorb up to 200 gallons of water per day - that's twice the amount the average person uses in the same timeframe.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab