Coastal Ecosystems

The cost of economic growth

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Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 783
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6198.783-c
Dalian, Liaoning Province, ChinaCREDIT: © HENRY WESTHEIM PHOTOGRAPH /ALAMY

Anthropomorphic changes threaten the stability of coastal ecosystems, but whether economic growth contributes to such degradation is unknown. To find out, He et al. assessed the trends in coastal population, economy, and 15 different human impacts, including salt production, fishing, and marine freight transport, on 30,000 km of Chinese coastline both before and after economic reforms began in China in 1978. They found that all 15 human impacts increased after 1978, even though population growth remained constant, suggesting that economic growth contributed to coastal ecosystem decline. The authors highlight the need for a national policy of environmental management to protect the coupled human-ocean ecosystem.

Sci. Rep. 4, 5995 (2014).

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