Woody and aquatic plants pose greatest invasive threat to China

May 01, 2008

Although China currently has fewer invasive woody plants than the United States, China’s potential for invasion by nonnative trees and shrubs is high, according to an article in the May 2008 issue of BioScience.

Authors Ewald Weber, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and Bo Li, of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, examined the factors associated with alien plant species invasions and compared the history of alien plant species introductions in the United States and China, countries of similar size and latitudinal span.

Weber and Li posit that China has relatively few invasive plant species because the country has remained largely isolated from international trade until recent decades, unlike the United States. As Chinese economic development proceeds apace, however, so too may the number of invasions of alien species. Of the plants that are already invasive in China, annuals are more common than shrubs, trees, climbers, and aquatic plants. These less common types, which include some of the world’s most pernicious invaders, could be poised for spread in the future.

The authors note that 20 familiar plant species, including elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), native to Africa, and pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), native to South America, are common invasive species in the United States and elsewhere but have not yet been reported as invasive in China, which may indicate that China is vulnerable to future infestations.

Yet species that have already spread have not been adequately controlled. For example, the grass Spartina alterniflora, native to the United States, was introduced into China in 1979 to help curb sand erosion. This plant has since invaded China’s eastern coast and estuaries, choking out the native Scirpus mariqueter and Phragmites australis, changing crucial wetlands to meadowlands, and hindering shorebirds’ access to food.

The article concludes that rapid economic development and strengthening international trade in China will have a twofold effect: new species will be introduced into the country at an ever-increasing rate, and greater reliance on railway transportation will cause habitat degradation, providing alien plants with viable environments for rapid range expansion.

The authors stress the need for immediate management of invasives in China, as well as other parts of Asia, to keep this momentum from gathering speed and causing further problems for poor farmers who live on marginal land. Weber and Li further state that any developing country benefiting from economic expansion and international trade should be wary of the greater potential for invasion of alien plant species.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: New conversion process turns biomass 'waste' into lucrative chemical products (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Invasive species can dramatically alter landscapes

Dec 11, 2014

Invasive plant and animal species can cause dramatic and enduring changes to the geography and ecology of landscapes, a study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky shows.

International team maps 'big bang' of bird evolution

Dec 11, 2014

The genomes of modern birds tell a story of how they emerged and evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and almost everything else 66 million years ago. That story is now coming to light, ...

Tilapias use urine to attract females

Oct 27, 2014

How many of us have seen, much to its owner consternation, a misguided pet urinating at the corner of a room marking its territory to repel rivals and attract females? Well, apparently fish do the same.

Stowaway species threaten biodiversity

Oct 03, 2014

In the early 1980s, the North American comb jellyfish quit its Atlantic home, hid away in the belly of a cargo ship and headed for the Black Sea.

Recommended for you

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work goes on

12 hours ago

(AP)—U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary ...

Contrasting views of kin selection assessed

14 hours ago

In an article to be published in the January issue of BioScience, two philosophers tackle one of the most divisive arguments in modern biology: the value of the theory of "kin selection."

User comments : 0

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.