shorebird research

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: shorebird research
From: "Terry Bishop" <>
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2008 18:54:38 +1000
The same story was repeated in Daily Science News.

Terry B

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Carl Clifford
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 4:07 PM
To: Rust Report editor
Subject: shorebird research

The story appeared in the ABC news last night. The story can be found  
at :


Carl Clifford

On 11/04/2008, at 3:30 PM, Rust Report editor wrote:
I stumbled across this press release from The University of NSW. I  
don't know if any of the media have picked it up, but I figured it  
may be of interest to members of this list.

Peter Scott
Killcare, NSW

UNSW Faculty of Science
Media release
Embargoed to 6am, Thursday 10 April 2008

Shorebird numbers crash: survey alarm

"Three-quarters of eastern Australia's millions of resident and  
migratory shorebirds
have disappeared in just one generation."   - Professor Richard  

One of the world's great wildlife spectacles is under way across  
Australia: as many as
two million migratory shorebirds of 36 species are gathering around  
Broome before
an amazing 10,000-kilometre annual flight to their northern  
hemisphere breeding

But an alarming new study has revealed that both these migrants and  
one million resident shorebirds have suffered a massive collapse in  
numbers over the
past 25 years.

A large scale aerial survey study covering the eastern third of the  
continent by
researchers at the University of New South Wales has identified that  
shorebirds populations there plunged by 73% between 1983 and 2006, while
Australia's 15 species of resident shorebirds - such as avocets and  
stilts - have
declined by 81%. The study is published in the scientific journal  

It is the first long-term analysis of shorebird populations and  
health at an almost a
continental scale and reveals a disturbing trend of serious long-term  
"This is a truly alarming result: in effect, three-quarters of  
eastern Australia's millions of
resident and migratory shorebirds have disappeared in just one  
generation," says an
author of the report, Professor Richard Kingsford.

"The wetlands and resting places that they rely on for food and  
recuperation are
shrinking virtually all the way along their migration path, from  
Australia through
Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and up through Asia into China  
and Russia."
The study also revealed for the first time that Australia's inland  
wetlands are
particularly important for migratory shorebirds, along with the  
better-known coastal
sites - such as Roebuck Bay, Port Phillip Bay, the Hunter River  
estuary and Hervey Bay.
Of the 10 wetlands supporting the highest number of shorebirds within  
survey bands
across eastern Australia, eight were inland and only two coastal.

This makes shorebirds vulnerable to the effects of damming rivers and  
extraction of
water. Four of the ten wetlands had been substantially reduced in  
size during the
survey period.

"Loss of wetlands due to river regulation is one of the more  
significant contributors to
this drastic decline, but it appears such a threat is largely  
unrecognised in Australia's
conservation plans and international agreements," says Professor  
Kingsford, who co-
authored the report with Silke Nebel and John Porter, of the UNSW  
School of
Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The fact that resident shorebirds in eastern Australia have also  
suffered dramatic
declines points to serious conservation problems within the  
continent, they say, and
reflects the pressures on river systems such as the Murray-Darling  
Basin. Other
shorebird populations in Australia's north and west, however, may not  
have declined
so much.

The migratory shorebirds make an annual flight from Australia during  
March and April
to their breeding grounds in northern China, Mongolia, Siberia and  
Alaska. These
birds make the extraordinary journey of to 10,000 kilometres over a  
period of only a
few weeks, some of them flying non-stop.

"Australia has international responsibilities for the conservation of  
these species and it
has migratory bird agreements with Korea, Japan and China in place,  
but these do
not appear to be stopping this long term decline," Professor  
Kingsford says.
As the migratory shorebirds wing their way up the east coast of Asia  
(known as the
East Asian-Australasian Flyway), they are increasingly vulnerable to  
many pressures.
Many are hunted but the most serious issue is the loss of their  
staging habitat, places
they stop to recuperate during their arduous journey. Here they need  
build up body
reserves for the next part of their journey. Sometimes, many  
migratory shorebirds may
use a single site.

The key staging site for the migratory shorebirds leaving Australia  
is the Yellow Sea,
where all 36 species concentrate, but the river catchments draining  
into the Yellow
Sea host a growing population of about 600 million people in China  
and South
Korea (about 10% of the world's population).

"Agriculture and industry are progressively reclaiming the tidal  
feeding grounds of
migratory shorebirds in the Yellow Sea" said Professor Kingsford.  
"Our international agreements
relating to shorebird conservation (Ramsar Convention) the Japan- 
Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA), the China-Australia Migratory Bird  
(CAMBA) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species  
of Wild
Animals (Bonn Convention) do not seem to be working."

Saemangeum, the most important shorebird site in the Yellow Sea, is  
reclaimed with no apparent effort on behalf of the South Korean or  
Government to stop it.

"Australia could do better" says Kingsford.

"We need to properly recognise our international obligations for  
shorebirds within our
shores when we decide to develop rivers and wetlands. We must try to  
meet our
side of the bargain for their conservation if we are to influence  
other countries to
protect their breeding and staging grounds."

Identifying and adequately protecting wetlands of high conservation  
value for
migratory shorebirds and protect their water supply is paramount, he  
Worldwide, shorebird numbers are in decline. Of the 237 species with  
trend data,
more than half are in decline, while only 8% are increasing.

Shorebirds are spectacular migratory birds, travelling almost the  
whole planet, from
north to south. They spend half their lives in Australia and the  
other half breeding in
Russia and China.

Media contacts: (not for publication)
Richard Kingsford, Professor of Environmental Science, UNSW School of  
Earth and Environmental Science - 0419 634 215
Bob Beale, UNSW Faculty of Science media liaison - 0411 705 435

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