PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] A new study by a team of Chinese and American conservation biologists quantifies the serious consequences of China's recent economic growth on its coastal ecosystems.
By several measures, 1978 was the beginning of a hugely successful surge in the nation's ability to produce economic value, but that surge brought accelerated degradation in the vitality of its coastal ecosystems.
The combined analysis of economic growth, human activities and impacts, and environmental quality data appears in the journal Scientific Reports. It shows that after reforms declared in 1978, which liberalized the Chinese economy to spur growth, many human economic activities with deleterious environmental impacts increased markedly, even in the absence of significant population growth. The economic reforms led to a shift from an inland agrarian economy to an industrial economy concentrated on the coast. In lockstep with that shift came environmental problems such as declines in fish size and diversity, damage to coral reefs, and a surge in harmful algal blooms.
"This study flags the problem and screams out this is a problem that has to be dealt with," said Mark Bertness, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University and the paper's second author. "This has all happened within a generation."
Lead author Qiang He of Beijing Normal University, who led the research while a visiting scholar in the Bertness lab at Brown, said the research shows that economic growth alone can generate environmental impacts.
"We show that in a country with a relatively constant coastal population growth rate, economic growth rather than population growth is the major driver of coastal degradation, while previous science often addresses how increasing human population degrades the coastal and marine environment," He said.
To perform the analysis, He gathered data from 1950 to 2010 from a
|Contact: David Orenstein|