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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Julie E. Coffey; Lars Y. Pomara; Heather L. Mackey; Eric M. Wood
Publication Date: 2023

Giant reed (Arundo donax) is a prevalent invasive plant in desert riparian ecosystems that threatens wildlife habitat. From 2008 to 2018, under a United States–Mexico partnership, prescribed burns and herbicide applications were used to remove giant reed and promote native revegetation along the Rio Grande—Río Bravo floodplain in west Texas, USA, and Mexico. Our goal was to explore the effects of the removal efforts on butterfly and bird communities and their habitat along the United States portion of the Rio Grande—Río Bravo floodplain in Big Bend National Park, Texas. During spring and summer, 2016–2017, we surveyed butterflies, birds, and their habitat using ground-collected and remotely sensed data. Using a variety of generalized linear and N-mixture modeling routines and multivariate analyses, we found that the initial giant reed removal efforts removed key components of riparian habitat leading to reduced butterfly and bird communities. Within several years following management, giant reed levels remained low, while riparian habitat conditions and butterfly and bird communities largely rebounded, including many disturbance-sensitive butterfly species and riparian-associated bird species. Butterflies were most consistently associated with forb and grass cover, and birds with a remotely sensed index of greenness (the normalized difference vegetation index), several vegetation cover types, and habitat heterogeneity, habitat elements that were most common in locations that had the longest time to recover following management actions. Our results suggest that prescribed burns and herbicide applications, when used following protocols to minimize risk to wildlife, can limit the spread of giant reed in desert riparian systems and introduce habitat conditions that support diverse and abundant butterfly and bird communities.

Online Links
Citation: Coffey, Julie E.; Pomara, Lars Y.; Mackey, Heather L.; Wood, Eric M. 2023. Removing invasive giant reed reshapes desert riparian butterfly and bird communities. Journal of Wildlife Management 87(4):e22380.

Cataloging Information

  • Arundo donax
  • Big Bend National Park
  • bird communities
  • butterflies
  • giant reed
  • habitat management
  • image texture
  • invasive species
  • NDVI - Normalized Difference Vegetation Index
  • remote sensing
  • west Texas
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 67861