Tamarix transpiration along a semiarid river has negligible impact on water resources.
The proliferation of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) along regulated rivers in the western United States has transformed riparian plant communities. It is commonly assumed that transpiration by these alien plants has led to large losses of water that would otherwise contribute to streamflow. Control of saltcedar, therefore, has been considered a viable strategy for conserving water and increasing streamflow in these regions. In an effort to better understand the linkage between transpiration by saltcedar and streamflow, we monitored transpiration, stream stage, and groundwater elevations within a saltcedar stand along the Pecos River during June 2004. Transpiration, as determined by sap flow measurements, exhibited a strong diel pattern; stream stage did not. Diel fluctuations in groundwater levels were observed, but only in one well, which was located in the center of the saltcedar stand. In that well, the correlation between maximal transpiration and minimal groundwater elevation was weak (R2=0.16). No effects of transpiration were detected in other wells within the saltcedar stand, nor in the stream stage. The primary reason, we believe, is that the saltcedar stand along this reach of the Pecos River has relatively low sapwood area and a limited spatial extent resulting in very low transpiration compared with the stream discharge. Our results are important because they provide a mechanistic explanation for the lack of increase in streamflow following large-scale control of invasive trees along semiarid rivers.