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December 17, 2011

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Home » Metro » Environment

Island link fears for ecosystem

PEST species threaten the delicate ecosystem of Chongming Island following the opening of an expressway link to the mainland, experts are warning.

The 25.5-kilometer Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge, which opened just over two years ago, has brought more vehicles and people to the island, a haven for migrating birds.

To highlight the island's fragility, officials cited the example of goldenrod - a pretty but invasive North American plant - that has spread over the island in recent years, displacing native species.

"Although the opening of the tunnel and bridge is not the cause of this species invading, it will lead to more human activity on the island," said Zhao Yingying, an official of the Shanghai Botanic Garden.

"And after all, many invasive species are introduced by humans," she added.

Goldenrod is now said to cover almost 8 percent of the 1,041-square-kilometer island - 20 times the area it was found in a decade ago.

Zhao, a Chongming islander, said she had witnessed firsthand the spread of the goldenrod.

"There are large numbers of the plant at dams around the island and invading the reed area of the wetlands," Zhao told Shanghai Daily.

Besides goldenrod, other exotic invaders, such as smooth cordgrass and water peanut, have been found on island, Zhao added.

She also expressed concerns of an increased threat to the island with a new expressway, further connecting the island to Jiangsu Province, opening this week.

This is expected to bring large numbers of tourists and vehicle to the island.

Experts are urging the government to take steps to stop the invaders.

To this end, Gu Bin and Qiao Jie, officials on the political advisory body in Chongming, have drafted proposals to protect the ecosystem.

Concerns have also been raised that increased traffic will threaten Chongming Island's wetlands.

These provide a home to a rich diversity of life and are used as a stopover by migrating birds.

Driving down a highway alongside peaceful wetlands may be enjoyable to drivers but could spell disaster for the plants and animals there, experts warn.

But officials insist that efforts have been made throughout the road's design and construction to reduce its environmental impact.


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