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China’s Belt and Road Initiative could increase alien species invasion

05 / 02 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

China’s ambitious, multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative could introduce alien invasive species into several countries, threatening their native biodiversity, warns a new study. Announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as “One Belt One Road” and “21st-century Maritime Silk Road,” proposes to connect China to countries in Asia, Africa and Europe via a network of land- and sea-based routes, making trade between the countries easier. There are plans for an overland economic belt of six corridors, which will include infrastructure like roads, railroads, airports and gas pipelines, connecting China to Central and South Asia and Europe. There’s also the Maritime Silk Road, or sea route corridors that aim to connect China with Southeast Asia, Oceania and North Africa through a chain of seaports. The Belt and Road Initiative will link China with once remote areas of Asia via roads, railways and ports. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay. While increased connectivity through mega infrastructure projects like the BRI can offer opportunities for trade and growth for the participating countries, it can have huge environmental costs too. Conservationists have, for instance, voiced their concern over the BRI potentially accelerating the invasion of alien species and the loss of native biodiversity. To find out where alien species can easily move in, Yiming Li, an ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his colleagues looked at the risk of invasion of more than 800 invasive species, including 98 amphibians, 177 reptiles, 391 birds and 150…

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