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Study measures steep coastal costs of China's GDP growth
Date:8/8/2014

variety of databases and records. He gathered information on economic growth including per capita growth at the provincial level, indicators of human impacts such as fertilizer use, total fish catch, coastal sewage, mariculture, nautical passenger and freight traffic, and coastal land use for salt production. He also looked at measures of coastal food webs, fish size, red tides, coral cover, and wetland and mangrove habitat.

"They basically flipped a switch in the '70s, so we could go back and data mine and look at these shifts," Bertness said.

Degradation data

In 11 coastal provinces, GDP has grown from about half of the nation's economic output before 1978 to about 60 percent afterward, while the coastal share of population has remained steady in the low 40 percent range.

In the meantime, the data show, many human impacts have increased faster after 1978 than before.

"Pre- and post-reform comparisons revealed significantly higher annual increases in post- than pre-reform periods for six of the 10 impacts with data for both periods," He, Bertness and their co-authors wrote. "We found no differences for the remaining four impacts. We did not find lower growth in post- than in pre-reform periods for any human impact."

Commensurate with the increased pace of human impacts, the growth of many environmental problems quickened, too.

"Across China's seas the trophic diversity and body size of marine fish did not change before 1978, but both have steadily decreased since," they wrote. "Harmful algal blooms have become much more frequent and extensive since the 1980s with red tides increasing from less than 10 per year before 1980 to 70-120 per year since 2000. In the South China Sea, percent cover of many corals has crashed to less than 15 percent of pre-reform levels."

Turning points

Consistent with the "EKC" hypothesis, which predicts that some economic phen
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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