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Taking Action Against Invasive Alien Species In China: Introducing Prevention & Control Policy Tools


China’s NBSAP and other national and regional programs and policies include action plans, implementation plans, targets, guidelines and decisions related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Numerous Chinese ministries and local governments have adopted and implemented a broad range of powerful policy instruments for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. As a result, there is strengthened cooperation and increased biodiversity conservation and sustainable use among government agencies, universities and research institutes. National policies have resulted in local conservation decision-making and action, which are key to successful achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. This best practice highlights China's use of various policy instruments to control and eliminate invasive alien species (IAS).

Problem, challenge or context: 

China's revised National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030) was developed with the draft Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 taken into account. The Government of China proposed this updated NBSAP under the new circumstances, as required by social and economic development in China and the international obligation of biodiversity conservation. China’s updated NBSAP 2010 identifies strategies and issues for the control and mitigation of IAS, as well as for climate change adaptation and mitigation, access to and benefit sharing from use of genetic resources (ABS), traditional knowledge and management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). NBSAP 2010, Priority Area 7 calls for strengthening the biosafety management of invasive alien species and genetically modified organisms.

Specific elements of components: 

China’s biodiversity and economy are severely impacted by the spread of IAS. Due to China’s vast land area, which covers nearly 50 latitudes and five climatic zones, China is very vulnerable to IAS invasion. Due to this diversity of climate zones and ecosystems, species from many parts of the world can find a suitable habitat in China. There are over 500 IAS in China (Xu & Qiang, 2011). Several species have caused serious negative impacts on agricultural production, ecosystem service functions and biodiversity, including Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, Oracella acuta, Hemiberlesia pitysophila, Hyphantria cunea, Matsucoccus matsumurae, Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus, Liriomyza sativae and Achatina fulica,. It is estimated that the total annual cost of invasive alien species to the environment and economy of China is at least 119.9 billion yuan annually.

The action taken: 

To address its IAS problem, China built an IAS prevention and control management system. It formed a cooperative group that is led by the Ministry of Agriculture, and has participation of the administrative departments of environmental protection, quality control, forestry, marine affairs, science, business and customs. China also established several additional government units:

  • The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China set up an inter-departmental committee for animal and plant quarantine risk analysis.
  • The Ministry of Environment Protection, Ministry of Agriculture, State Forestry Administration and other departments established units for IAS control.
  • The Ministry of Environment Protection and Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly formulated the “List of the Second Batch of Invasive Species in China” in 2010, including 10 kinds of invasive plants and nine invasive animals.
  • China has also taken steps to strengthen biological safety management by establishing an Office of Biosafety Management. A system is in place to manage GMO risks in the fields of agriculture and forestry.

China has made significant progress in the study of invasive species diversity and pattern; invasion mechanisms and ecological effects; and management and control. Major research projects are focused on:

  • Ecological effect mechanisms and monitoring foundation of important invasive species;
  • Research on invasion mechanisms and control foundation of endangered species in agriculture and forestry in China;
  • Principles and methods for agro biodiversity pest control and germplasm resources protection;
  • Major innovative projects of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) like the research on ecological effects and management technology of important invasive species.

Through this scientific research, China identified 529 IAS that are mainly terrestrial plants, terrestrial invertebrates and micro-organisms that come from North and South America. The research also found that the IAS epidemic is much more severe in the eastern and southern provinces, which have a developed economy and warm and humid climate. China is putting a significant investment in research related to technical systems such as detection and monitoring, risk analysis, biological control, proliferation blockage, radical elimination and ecological restoration. A collaborating group and an inter-departmental committee for risk analysis of animal and plant quarantine further regulate IAS prevention and control. Related departments established special agencies for IAS prevention and control.

Key lessons learned: 

Biodiversity policy plays a very important role in achieving conservation and sustainable use goals. A large number of biodiversity protection actions catalyze policy development. In return, policy is often the guiding and initiating factor for biodiversity legislation.

Impacts and outcomes: 

The “List of the Second Batch of Invasive Species in China” (2010) positively impacted the community. It played an important role in guiding local departments and research institutes to prevent and control invasive species. It had additional far-reaching effects on the protection of biodiversity in China and national ecological safety. In 2012, China carried out the central elimination of major agricultural invasive species such as Solanum rostratum dunal, Alternanthera philoxeroides and water hyacinth in Jiangxi, Hubei, Jilin and other provinces. These actions effectively controlled the spread and damage of major invasive species. China built 14 integrated demonstration areas over 67 sq. km. for the elimination of invasive species such as Pomacea canaliculata, Solidago canadensis L., ragweed, Alternanthera philoxeroides, Solenopsis invicta, as well as 60 demonstration sites for the prevention, control and elimination of these invasive species. Improved management system and mechanisms are also in place. The government developed a national IAS emergency preparedness and response program. Eighteen provinces (autonomous regions and province-level municipalities) established IAS Management Offices or a mechanism of joint conference (of relevant departments). Twenty-seven provinces announced emergency responses for managing the invasion of alien species. China also developed and issued 52 technical guidelines for IAS monitoring, assessment, prevention and control, as well as a first and second national IAS list for monitoring and tracking. The national government also developed and issued 352 sectoral standards, 104 national standards and two international standards for plant quarantine. China has also strengthened its capacity to monitor IAS epidemics and early warning signs. A network of monitoring and early warning signs of forest pests and agricultural IAS has been established. IAS surveys indicate distribution and damage levels. An IAS risk assessment system monitors over ,500 alien species. Mail inspection also takes place across the country. Over 600 counties and cities of 22 provinces, autonomous regions and province-level municipalities have taken action to eliminate IAS, with a focus on 20 key invasive alien species, including Ambrosia artemisiifolia and Alternanthera philoxeroides. These initiatives have mobilized over 42.72 million persons and resulted in the elimination or control of IAS in over 57,300 sq km. In February 2010, China issued a revised technical programme for preventing and controlling Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. As a result the area affected by Bursaphelenchus xylophilus decreased from 846.7 sq. km. at its peak to 453. sq. km. one year later. In 2011, Hunan Province promulgated a provincial IAS regulation. Various media, including radio, television, journals and the Internet, are used to educate and train citizens on techniques for IAS prevention and control. The Chinese government has published and disseminated more than 200,000 copies of relevant publications, such as "100 Questions on Agricultural IAS." National training workshops are organized on emergency IAS responses

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