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Invasive Species Are Costing the Global Economy Billions, Study Finds



A new scientific report offers the most exhaustive look yet at how nonnative plants and animals can drive extinctions, disrupt food systems and harm human health.

Thousands of invasive species introduced to new ecosystems around the world are causing more than $423 billion in estimated losses to the global economy every year by harming nature, damaging food systems and threatening human health, a wide-ranging scientific report published on Monday has found.

The costs have at least quadrupled every decade since 1970, according to the report, which was based on 2019 data. Researchers warned that the cost figures were conservative estimates because of the challenges in accounting for all effects.

Over the last few centuries, humans have intentionally and unintentionally introduced more than 37,000 species to places outside their natural ranges as the world has become more interconnected, the assessment said. More than 3,500 of those are considered invasive because they are harmful to their new ecosystems.


Invasive nonnative species were a major factor in 60 percent of recorded extinctions of plants and animals, according to the report, which was produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for the United Nations. It expands on a sweeping 2019 report by the same panel, which found that as many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.

“We are seeing unprecedented increases in the numbers of alien species worldwide,” Helen Roy, an ecologist and one of the leaders of the new study, said in an interview. “It’s about 200 new alien species every year. And, yes, with those kinds of numbers, we will also see the impacts increasing.”

The report is the most exhaustive look yet at how invasive nonnative species are driving biodiversity loss. It was compiled by 86 experts from 49 countries, who drew on thousands of scientific studies and contributions from Indigenous people and local communities.

Some species are relocated by global forces like wildlife trade and international shipping. Zebra mussels, for instance, are an invasive species that has driven local mussels to the brink of extinction in the Great Lakes and forced power plants to spend millions unclogging water intakes. They probably arrived in North America on cargo ships from Europe in the 1980s. Other plants and animals have been known to hitch a ride with ordinary travelers moving by car, plane or train.

European shore crabs have invaded commercial shellfish beds in New England.Arterra/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

Species have also been introduced intentionally for their perceived benefits and then spread out of control. Solutions, the researchers said, have to address such factors.

Not all nonnative species are considered a problem. Some, like chickens and potatoes, have been domesticated and play important roles in agriculture. But unchecked nonnative species that become invasive can severely damage food systems.

The European shore crab has invaded commercial shellfish beds in New England, for example, while the Caribbean false mussel has damaged key fisheries in India.

Invasions can also damage human health. Mosquitoes that transmit diseases like malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus have become invasive around the world.

“Usually the poor communities are the ones that suffer the most,” said Aníbal Pauchard, another leader of the assessment. “At the same time, with climate change, you’re going to have mosquitoes going higher, you know? So getting, for example, to New York.”

Disturbed ecosystems may be unable to deliver some of the services depended on by humans, like maintaining fisheries, regulating rain patterns and purifying drinking water. Invasive species also make ecosystems more vulnerable by reducing the biodiversity that makes them resilient to diseases and other threats.

Islands are particularly vulnerable. The number of invasive nonnative species exceeds the number of native ones in more than a quarter of the world’s islands.

Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that can spread the Zika virus and dengue fever, seen through a microscope. They originated in Africa and spread around the world. Felipe Dana/Associated Press

That became vividly clear last month when wildfires in Hawaii, fueled by invasive nonnative grasses and higher temperatures, killed at least 115 people. In recent years, invasive grasses have fueled other deadly fires in Chile and Australia.

“It is a perfect storm,” said Dawn Bazely, a professor of biology at the York University in Toronto who specializes in grasses. “It is the intersection of global warming with invasive species that is creating these terrible, terrible feedbacks.”

Countries have failed to meet a target set in 2010 to reduce invasions. But, in December last year, nearly every country in the world agreed as part of a sweeping agreement to protect biodiversity to reduce the introduction and establishment of invasive species by at least half.

Researchers said that the most important way to fight the growing crisis of invasive nonnative species was to prevent their arrival in new regions. The options include assessing risks before moving species or adopting biosecurity measures that are often quite simple.

The cost of inaction is high. Once a species is established, especially in marine environments, getting rid of them is typically very expensive or even impossible.

“The problem is growing, and it is a serious threat to the quality of life of millions of people around the world,” said Peter Stoett, another of the report’s leaders. But it’s also, he added, “a manageable problem if the investment and the commitment are there.”



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China’s Ailing Pork Demand Another Sign of Economic Distress



(Bloomberg) — The fall holidays in China are usually boom-time for pork consumption, as parties and cooler weather entice households to splurge on the nation’s favorite meat.

The Mid-Autumn Festival on Friday typically gathers friends and family over celebratory fare like braised pork belly or sweet and sour ribs. This year, the lunar holiday is followed in short order by the weeklong National Day break, which should extend demand for the more expensive meatier dishes beloved by Chinese.

But consumption is falling flat and supplies are ample. Much of the blame lies with a weak economy and financial uncertainty that to some degree has affected all of China’s commodities markets. Prices of hogs and pork, which usually rise in anticipation of shoppers opening their wallets, have actually fallen. It’s a troubling sign for an industry that has yet to recover from the constraints imposed by the pandemic.

“Pork is selling poorly,” said Yao Shangli, a wholesaler based in Shanghai supplying restaurants in the city. “Look at the economic situation now. The economy is bad. There’s no demand. There wasn’t a wave of stock-building before the holiday either,” he said.


Chinese pork consumption is nearly five times that of 40 years ago, mirroring the rise of the middle classes. But even relatively well-off households are watching the pennies as the economy slows and a protracted property crisis saps confidence.

The impact will be felt as far afield as the Americas, whose farmers supply most of the animal feed for China’s vast pig herd. There’s also a direct impact on financial markets because of the meat’s weighting in the basket of food monitored by China’s central bank, with a drop in pork prices contributing to deflationary pressures in the economy.

In the wet markets of Guangdong in southern China, sales of fresh pork have been slow, said Citic Futures Co. Meat that should have sold out in the morning was still sitting on shelves in the afternoon, according to a report from the broker at the weekend.

Slaughter Rates

Hog prices nationwide have dropped over 5% so far this month, and wholesale pork prices have also turned lower. Slaughter rates at abattoirs are flat.

Carcass sales have slowed and slaughterhouses aren’t getting many orders, according to commodities consultancy Mysteel, which cited the impact of the sluggish economy.

“This round of restocking for the holidays is basically over and demand didn’t really kick off,” said Zhu Di, an analyst with GF Futures Co.

Demand for cured pork usually rises toward the end of the year and that could give the market a boost, according to Zhu. “But I’m not sure how much it will be,” she said. “There’s too much supply. We are quite pessimistic about prices in the fourth quarter.”

That puts Chinese farmers in a bind. Profitability is already lagging pre-pandemic levels, due to a combination of oversupply, weak demand, high feed prices and the costs of fending off diseases like African swine fever.

With hopes dashed this time around, the focus will switch to the run up to the next festival period around Lunar New Year — the period of heaviest demand for pork in the Chinese calendar.

The Week’s Diary

(All times Beijing unless noted.)

Thursday, Sept. 28

  • China weekly iron ore port stockpiles
  • Shanghai exchange weekly commodities inventory, ~15:30
  • China Intl Aluminum Week in Yinchuan, Ningxia, day 3

Friday, Sept. 29

  • China’s Mid-Autumn Festival holiday

Saturday, Sept. 30

  • China’s official PMIs for September, 09:30

Sunday, Oct. 1

  • Caixin’s China PMIs for September, 09:45

On the Wire

Saudi Aramco will start talks to buy a 10% stake in a Chinese refining and petrochemical company, as it looks to boost its presence in the world’s biggest energy importer.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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Economy doing better than expected in face of higher interest rates, banking watchdog says – Financial Post



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Chinese social media censored a top economist for his bearish predictions. He now warns that China’s property crisis will take a decade to fix



How long will it take to fix China’s flailing real estate sector? One of the country’s most prominent economists, who was ejected from its social media platforms for his bearish predictions about the economy, thinks it might take 10 years to fix.

“Fixing the property sector may be a multiyear or even a decade’s work in front of us,” Hong Hao, chief economist for Shanghai-based hedge fund Grow Investment, said on CNBC Tuesday.

That will mean more pain for China’s suffering real estate sector, now two years into its debt crisis. A default in 2021 by China Evergrande Group, one of the country’s largest private developers, sparked contagion across the whole sector as financing dried up. Construction stopped, leading to protests as homebuyers realized they might never get the homes they paid for.

Now with China’s economy underperforming after the COVID pandemic, Beijing officials are grappling with how to wean the economy from real estate without torpedoing the economy in the short term.


For much of the past decade, Chinese developers like Evergrande went on a debt-fueled construction spree, building millions of new homes throughout the country. That’s led to an oversupply, dragging down prices.

“We built way too much housing for Chinese people,” Hong said on CNBC.

Demand is also in long-term decline. Investment bank Goldman Sachs estimated in August that China’s annual urban housing demand peaked at 18 million units in 2017, and will fall to 11 million units this year and 9 million units by 2030.

On Tuesday, Hong pointed to slowing rates of urbanization, with fewer rural Chinese moving to the cities for work. “Two years ago, we were selling 18 trillion yuan [$2.5 trillion] worth of property,” he said. “This year, we’d be lucky to do even [10 trillion yuan], and going down the road, we’d be lucky to do even [5 trillion] or [6 trillion].”

Bearish takes

Hong is an outspoken commentator on China’s economy, growing his audience during his tenure as the head of research of BOCOM International, a division of state-owned Bank of Communications.

Yet Hong’s takes were censored last year amid China’s tough COVID lockdowns in cities like Shanghai. Hong argued that the lockdown, which trapped millions of people to their apartments in a bid to stop an outbreak, would hurt China’s economy and would encourage capital flight.

Both WeChat—the ubiquitous messaging platform—and Twitter-like Weibo suspended Hong’s accounts in May 2022. Hong soon resigned from BOCOM, which the company said was for personal reasons.

When Hong got a new gig at Grow International a few months later, he warned that those working at state-owned brokerages were starting to face restrictions about what they could say. “Even if you don’t speak the truth, market prices will tell the truth,” he told Reuters at the time.

Hong’s suspension was an early indicator of Beijing’s censorship of bad economic news. This year, regulators are asking analysts and economists to stop using negative language to describe China’s economy—think “subdued inflation” rather than deflation—and the statistics bureau has stopped releasing some indicators like consumer confidence and youth unemployment.

China’s economic recovery has stagnated. Retail sales and manufacturing have grown at lower-than-expected rates for much of the year, and foreign trade has plunged. Still, Chinese economic data beat forecasts last month, suggesting that government support measures may finally be having an effect.

China’s property crisis

China’s real estate sector contributes as much as a third of the country’s GDP. Yet the sector’s liquidity crisis shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

China Evergrande, whose default arguably triggered the crisis in the first place, missed a payment on an onshore yuan-denominated bond on Monday. The developer revealed over the weekend that it could not issue new debt. Chinese authorities are also probing the developer’s former CEO and CFO, reports Caixin.

The bankrupt developer faces a liquidation petition on Oct. 30.

Another major Chinese developer, Country Garden, is also having debt issues. The developer, which has four times as many projects as Evergrande, recently made a $22.5 million interest payment with just days to spare.

While China has relaxed some real estate policies in a bid to stabilize home prices, analysts think that the glory days of the sector are over.

That may be by design, as officials try to wean China off its real estate sector. On CNBC, Hong suggested that once China’s economy relies on other industries rather than the property sector, then “we will have a better, much healthier Chinese economy than before.”

“Not having an overbearing Chinese property sector actually is good for the Chinese economy going forward,” he said.

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