China's economic boom sparks biological invasions

April 1, 2008

The rapid growth of China’s industrial and transportation infrastructure is helping to establish non-native species throughout that country and “setting the stage for potentially rampant environmental damage,” according to an article in the April 2008 issue of BioScience. The article, by a Chinese-US team, describes how more than 400 alien plants and animals are now considered invasive in China, including some that are causing serious harm even though they were first documented in the country only a few years ago.

The authors of the article are Jianqing Ding and Mingxun Ren of the Wuhan Institute of Botany, Richard N. Mack of Washington State University, Hongwen Huang of the South China Institute of Botany, and Ping Lu of the Northeast Agricultural University, Harbin, China. Many factors are contributing to the developing problems, including an increase in the number of ports of entry, the number of travelers, and the amount of imported goods. An expanding network of express highways and more domestic air travel also make it easier for organisms to “hitch-hike” into and around the country.

Many invasive plants were brought to China as ornamental or fodder species. Canada goldenrod was brought in as an ornamental and was distributed via the domestic nursery and garden industries; it has now invaded more than 20 provinces. Insects have spread even faster: the American vegetable leaf miner, first detected in China in 1993, now occurs throughout the country.

Ecosystem disturbance around major construction projects such as the Three Gorges Dam has stimulated biological invasions of damaging plants such as broadleaf fleabane as well as alligator weed and water hyacinth, both of which were once cultivated for animal fodder with official encouragement. The recently completed Quinghai-Tibet railway is also thought likely to accelerate the spread of invasives.

Even the preparations for the 2008 Beijing “Green Olympics” pose a threat: non-native grass seed and other plants continue to be imported as part of an effort to beautify the urban landscape. These plants could serve as carriers for insect pests.

One preliminary estimate puts China's annual economic losses from invasive insects and plants at $14.5 billion. The article includes a call for “enhanced research, public education, and governmental attention” to the problem of invasive species in China.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: Invasions out of center of diversity increase the risk of disease epidemics in wheat

Related Stories

Stink bugs have strong taste for ripe fruit

June 29, 2015

The brown marmorated stink bug has a bad reputation. And for good reason: every summer, this pest attacks crops and invades homes, causing both sizable economic losses and a messy, smelly nuisance—especially in the eastern ...

WSU ecologist warns of bamboo fueling spread of hantavirus

May 7, 2015

Washington State University researchers say the popularity of bamboo landscaping could increase the spread of hantavirus, with the plant's prolific seed production creating a population boom among seed-eating deer mice that ...

Recommended for you

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

July 31, 2015

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how ...

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.