Experts get together in Beijing to discuss conservation of key sites for migratory birds in the Yellow Sea

Article released by CMS

Bonn, 23 September 2014 – Flyways around the world include key stopover sites that are essential for migratory birds to rest and refuel before continuing their journey. Delaware Bay in the Eastern Americas Flyway and the Wadden Sea in the African-Eurasian Flyway are good examples of such critical sites.

In the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the Yellow Sea, and in particular Bohai Bay, are the areas strategically located along the flyway to provide the birds with the necessary food and energy to reach their destinations. Intertidal flats are the main habitat that shorebirds use to rest and feed since it is populated with many different species of marine invertebrates that make it a very productive system for millions of birds and for the local economies.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper © Christoph Zoeckler

Spoon-billed Sandpiper © Christoph Zoeckler

A number of CMS-listed species which are globally threatened such as the Great Knot, Far-eastern Curlew or Spoon-billed Sandpiper use the Yellow Sea as a key stopover site in their migrations. Other declining species such as the Bar-tailed Godwit fly directly from New Zealand to the Yellow Sea and from there to Alaska in their northward migration, an amazing journey that is completed with a direct flight from Alaska to New Zealand after the conclusion of the breeding season.

But the Yellow Sea coastal habitats are under serious threat. Loss and degradation of the Yellow Sea intertidal wetlands is precipitating an ecological catastrophe of critical global concern, threatening to end the migration of 50 million waterbirds that has been happening for millennia.The most recent national wetland inventory of China revealed a net loss of 3 million ha of natural wetlands over the past ten years, for which reclamation of coastal wetlands is one of the major causes. Loss of coastal wetlands has not only harmed the ecosystem health of the Chinese coastal zones but has also had a very negative impact on the migratory waterbirds along the East Asian Australasian Flyway, which is of international concern.

To address this impending crisis, 150 officials, national and international experts and representatives of intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and media gathered together in Beijing on 16-17 September at an International Workshop on Intertidal Wetland Conservation and Management in the Yellow Sea Provinces of China. The CMS Secretariat participated in the meeting which was hosted by the Beijing Forestry University. The main objective was to gather experts and policy-makers working in the field of coastal management to raise awareness on the threats to the coastal zone in China, particularly in the Yellow Sea. It also provided a forum for discussion and examples of international good practice in coastal management and sustainable use, and most importantly it proposed recommendations for new ways forward on this to be developed by the workshop participants.

The workshop agreed on a declaration requesting stronger recognition of the important ecosystem services provided by the intertidal zone of the Yellow Sea by all of society and particularly by national, provincial and local governments. This includes biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. This topic should be mainstreamed in the governmental agenda and promoted through communication, education and public awareness.

A National Action Plan and Strategy for the protection of the coastal wetland ecosystems of the Yellow Sea will also be developed by the Chinese Government, in order to ensure adequate protection and restoration of key sites that provide valuable ecosystems services and support to millions of migratory birds.

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