Policy ForumEcosystems Management

Rethinking China's new great wall

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Science  21 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6212, pp. 912-914
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257258

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China's position as the world's second largest economy is largely due to its rapid economic growth in the coastal region, which composes only 13% of China's total land area, yet contributes 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP). To create extra land for the rapidly growing economy, coastal wetlands have been enclosed by thousands of kilometers of seawalls, whose length exceeds that of China's famous ancient “Great Wall” (see photos and map). This new “Great Wall,” covering 60% of the total length of coast-line along mainland China (1), caused a dramatic decline in internationally shared biodiversity and associated ecosystem services and will threaten regional ecological security and sustainable development. Here, we outline these problems, analyze the drivers behind wetland reclamation, and propose measures for effective wetland management.