Wednesday, April 16, 2008

China faces invasion of alien species

Environmental Science & Technology: China exports much more than toys and plastics. The Asian longhorn beetle—one of many native Chinese animals, insects, and plants that have made new homes abroad—seems to have hitched a ride to the U.S. sometime in the 1990s in shipments containing wood from China. Invasive species like this Canada goldenrod have entered China by commercial routes.Now the tide is turning. Reporting in BioScience this month (2008, 58, 317–324) (PDF Size: 2.84 MB), researchers from China and the U.S. describe a mounting invasion of nonnative plants and animals into China.

Beijing is battling the North American fall webworm, which is destroying the 2008 Olympics host city's ornamental trees and hundreds of other plant species. Brazilian piranha, adopted as exotic pets, escape to China's waterways. And growing demand for ornamental plants has led to an uptick in new nurseries; as a result, imported Canada goldenrod has spread to 20 provinces in China in the past decade alone. The scientists say the invading plants and animals may be forerunners of a larger onslaught that could threaten China's tens of thousands of native species. Many of the explosions in alien populations have occurred in the past three decades—even for plants or insects originally introduced in the 1930s, the authors find...

William Mohlenbrock of the USDA took this picture of Canada goldenrod, an invasive plant that has entered China through commercial routes

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