Shorebird habitat loss in the Yellow Sea
Shorebird habitat loss in the Yellow Sea
Adrian Boyle <>
Fri, 17 Sep 2010 16:03:22 +0800
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
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
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 www.globalflywaynetwork.com.au/
Cheers Adrian Boyle
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