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Data Point To Some Improvements In China's Environment

Date:
November 2, 2009
Source:
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Summary:
A recent assessment finds some positive trends among indicators of biodiversity loss in China -- notably, growth in forest coverage and improvements in marine ecosystems. However, other indicators, such as the rate of discovery of invasive species, are worsening. Many animals are under growing threat.
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The rapid growth of China's forests over the past 20 years makes them the fastest growing forest resources in the world, according to an assessment published in the November issue of BioScience.

The study, by Haigen Xu of the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences and nine colleagues, examined an array of indicators of biodiversity in China as part of an effort to assess China's progress toward the goals of the Convention of Biological Diversity. Parties to the convention agreed in 2002 to reduce biodiversity loss significantly by 2010.

China is a megadiverse country that has been undergoing rapid development, so the finding of growing forest stocks is surprising, although some of the growth may have consisted of monoculture plantations, which do not increase biodiversity.

The increase in forest cover was not the only bright spot that Xu and colleagues discovered. The amount of desertified land in China decreased between 1999 and 2004, emissions of many industrial pollutants have fallen, and a measure of marine ecosystem health shows that Chinese waters have started to improve--probably because of fishing restrictions--after reaching a low in 1997.

The favorable indicators do not conceal some bleak realities and worsening trends. Pollution in Chinese marine ecosystems is "still very severe;" mammal, fish, and bird species across the country are under increasing threat; and the use of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute rivers and lakes is increasing. Grasslands are declining, and the number of newly discovered invasive alien species shows "a tremendous upward trend," Xu and his colleagues write. The area devoted to nature reserves is large and has grown, although many of the reserves are poorly marked and maintained.

All in all, the authors say, despite major efforts by the Chinese government, "China still faces grave challenges in pollution control and biodiversity conservation." They note that "the next decade is a critical period for China to engage all stakeholders in protecting its rich and unique biodiversity."


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The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Biological Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Data Point To Some Improvements In China's Environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121456.htm>.
American Institute of Biological Sciences. (2009, November 2). Data Point To Some Improvements In China's Environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121456.htm
American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Data Point To Some Improvements In China's Environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121456.htm (accessed May 29, 2015).

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