A step forward for threatened migratory waterbirds in Incheon, Korea


Incheon and Gyeonggi tidal flats are important for a great number of migratory bird species, which are now at risk through rapid urban development and reclamation of coastal areas. The EAAFP secretariat has been calling meetings to take proactive measure to halt the unsustainable development in this area with key stakeholders including central and local governmental agencies, NGOs and experts. As a side event of the World Wetland Day Celebration in Korea on 10 July,  a workshop was convened with key Incheon stakeholders for information sharing on current threats to birds and their habitats and suggestions to develop action plans. The target species are Black-faced Spoonbill, Saunders’s Gull, Chinese Egret and shorebirds that depends on mudflats in Incheon, their breeding grounds and stopover sites.

Incheon-Gyeonggi Ecoregion (IGE) is a part of the Yellow Sea and supports a large number of migratory waterbirds including endangered species, such as Black-faced Spoonbill. The breeding colonies of Black-faced Spoonbill in Incheon and Gyeonggi areas represent a large proportion of the s population in East Asian – Australasian Flyway. Black-faced Spoonbill breeds on islets off the west coast of Korean peninsula and Liaoning province in mainland China. However, one of major breeding sites is along the Incheon coast, where mudflats are used for feeding.

A rare colony of Black-faced Spoonbill has been breeding at Songdo Namdong Reservior, an artificial island inside of Songdo city, with an average 100 pairs since 2006. However, the mudflats around the artificial island  are disappearing now due to urban development. Many international and local bird experts and NGOs have been concerned and raised their voices that this colony will abandon this island to breed because there is no feeding area around the diminishing mudflat.

During the workshop, Dr. Lee Ki-sup, Representative of the Korea Waterbird Network, said the Satellite Tracking study showed that Black-faced Spoonbills that use this island at Namdong reservoir to breed started to move to and use Shiheung mudflat, immediately south from Songdo, in preference to Songdo mudflats. If these birds completely move to Shiheung mudflats/Shiheung city to feed and to rest, it is likely they could abandon Songdo Namdong reservoir/Songdo city, but start a new colony near Shiheung mudflats in Shiheung city. If so, Incheon could lose precious natural heritage – Black-faced Spoonbill breeding at Songdo Namdong Reservoir. However, the breeding rate of Black-faced Spoonbill was very successful this year because it has rained less in this summer than usual.

Change of bird population depending on the reclamation © Kyeongin Ilbo

Bird numbers sharply declined because of reclamation © Kyeongin Ilbo

Dr. Hwang Bo-Yeon from National Park Service also conmmented on Saunders’s Gull breeding grounds in Songdo during the workshop. “The number of breeding pairs of Saunders’s Gull in Songdo is eighty in this year. However, these 80 pairs were only seen in Zone 6. They used to nest in Zone 6, Zone 8 and Zone 9 as they tend to nest on ground and are restricted to common seepweed Suaeda glauca saltmarsh habitats. Since building constructions has been started in Zone 8 and Zone 9 , all breeding pairs of Saunders’s Gull have abandoned these Zones. If there is no urgent action taken soon in Songdo area, Zone 6, to save the Saunders’s Gull, we won’t have any Saunders’s Gull breeding in Songdo in next year.”

This initiative will help establish a sub Task Force, a part of Yellow Sea Task Force, with key stakeholders to develop action plans and take proactive actions against destroying habitats and biodiversity, but conserving precious natural heritages, migratory waterbirds and mudflats.

The next meeting is scheduled  on 16th September at the EAAFP office to examine urban development plans in Incheon wetlands. For further question, please contact to Minseon Kim, EAAFP Program Officer at [email protected]





Comments are closed.