Shorebird habitat loss in the Yellow Sea

Subject: Shorebird habitat loss in the Yellow Sea
From: Adrian Boyle <>
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2010 16:03:22 +0800
Hi all

Thought I would pass on some very disturbing issues facing our shorebirds

During April and May in both 2009 and 2010 I have been working in the Bohai Sea 
(China) on Red Knots for the Global Flyway Network with Chris Hassell.

Red knots populations have been  declining for many years now and it is 
predicted that in the next few years there will be a major crash in our 2 
subspecies rogersi and persmai that visit Australia and New Zealand.

The main reason is that there is a huge amount of habitat loss on the staging 
grounds. The amount that is and has occurred in the Yellow Sea (the main site 
for migrating shorebirds from our flyway) is staggering. It is reported in the 
Bohai Sea alone in the last 10 years 453km2 of offshore area including 156km2 
of intertidal mudflats have been destroyed.

In regards to Red Knot it has only been in the last few years since the main 
staging site for Red Knots on Northward migration has been found. This is in 
the north west area of the Bohai Sea in China. This area is one of the most 
populated places on the planet and humans are visible everywhere. The Bohai Sea 
is the most polluted sea in the world and absorbs nearly 5.7 billion tones of 
sewage each year, 2 million tones of solid waste and 43 of its 52 rivers that 
flow into it are heavily polluted.

For Red Knot on southward migration it staging site has yet to be discovered 
and the threats to this area are therefore still unknown.

Massive loss of habitat due to industrial development has destroyed hundreds of 
square km of mudflats and has now pushed the 50,000 Red Knots that feed in this 
bay into a small and rapidly reducing band of mudflat along with many other 
species of Shorebirds.

A Chinese friend that is studying for a PhD on Red Knots in the area has 
already lost 4 of her survey areas and in the time between my last and next 
visit this shoreline will have reduced from 23km to just 17.5km.  The 
destruction of a further 5.5km is now underway and it is not known how much of 
this will be left on my next visit. With no protection for the remaining 
mudflat it is predicted that this will also vanish over the next few years.

The China marine environment monitoring center estimates that between 2006 and 
2010 1000km2 of land were reclaimed each year in China alone. Figures for Korea 
are not known at this stage.

Curlew Sandpipers may also show some dramatic declines soon as on a 5.5km 
stretch of mudflat, that is being destroyed as you read this, in April 2010 a 
staggering 80,000 of them were counted feeding there. Where they will go and if 
they will survive is not known.

Red Knot more than many other shorebirds are very specific on their prey items 
and will struggle to find any other area suitable to stage.

The main reason for the habitat loss is to create land for industry. This of 
course provides us with the many items that we ALL have in our house. 
Caofeidian project was a development mainly for shipping with most of this 
being for Australian Iron Ore ships. This development destroyed more than 65km2 
of mudflat and is adjacent to our main survey area. This is also a site where 
the major industry that once polluted Beijing (a steel works) was moved to make 
clearer skies for the environmentally friendly Olympics.

Unfortunately money talks and the price of newly created land is a lot cheaper 
than already existing land. This is the driving force behind the destruction 
and as the world demands more products from China the industry will continue to 
be built.

It is a sad state of affairs and many environmental groups have been trying to 
halt this massive issue all over the very important Yellow Sea so far with very 
little success. Unless there is a major swing in government opinion then it 
will continue until it is all gone. Unfortunately this will not be much longer 
as new development is popping up everywhere.

A few images taken at the site and showing the issues and threats can be seen 
at the below address.

Each photo has information posted below the image explaining what they are.

A recent radio interview by Chris Hassell and myself on this topic can be 
viewed at.

Further information on some other Shorebird habitat loss can be found at.

Information on the Global Flyway Network along with a full report on the Bohai 
Bay survey is available at

Cheers Adrian Boyle

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