Global Importance of China’s tidal-flats for Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recognised

Shanghai, (Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, London, Berlin, Denver) 29 October 2013

A survey of the Chinese coastline by the conservation network “SBS in China” supported by 15 waterbird experts from the international Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) Task Force (1) confirms the outstanding international conservation importance of intertidal wetlands in Jiangsu Province.

The survey, conducted from October 15th-19th along 120km of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong, Jiangsu Province, found 140 Spoon-billed Sandpiper, 1200 Nordmann’s Greenshank and “internationally important concentrations” of several other waterbird species as defined by the intergovernmental Ramsar Convention on wetlands (2).

This is the largest number of the fast-declining Spoon-billed Sandpiper found anywhere in the world since 2008, when it was designated as a globally Critically Endangered species (3). It is also the largest ever count of the globally Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank. Both species are ecologically dependent on the most naturally-productive and healthy intertidal wetlands, during migration especially in the Yellow Sea.

Although waterbirds were found along the whole Jiangsu coast, the largest concentrations were found in three key areas: Dongtai (Jianggang) in Yancheng County and Yangkou, Feng Li and Dongling in Rudong County. Many of the most important intertidal wetlands along the Jiangsu coast are threatened by continuing reclamation for agricultural and industrial development. However, local and provincial authorities now recognise the international importance of the area and announced the creation of one new protected area for spoon-billed sandpiper, together with two more existing shellfish and fishery protected areas at a workshop that immediately followed the survey. These sites overlap with most of the wader feeding areas and it is hoped that they will eventually achieve protection at provincial and national level.

“Our surveys confirm the intertidal wetlands of Rudong as the most important remaining stopover site for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper during its entire 8000km long migration route. Protecting these internationally important intertidal wetlands is vital for the sandpiper’s survival, and also for the maintenance of the shellfishery and other vital services provided by tidal-flats. We urgently need more conservation action in China to prevent this and other tidal-flat species from going extinct.” stated Jing Li (Coordinator of SBS in China), who organised the surveys and workshop with Tong Menxiu and Dr Christoph Zöckler of the SBS Task Force.

“We believe the entire world population of the adults of both Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmannn’s Greenshank are staging at the highly productive intertidal flats on the coast of Rudong” added Dr Nigel Clark from BTO in the UK, highlighting its importance for the survival of both species.

The survey was followed by a two-day workshop (4) co-hosted by the Rudong government, Jiangsu Province and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force. Workshop participants were encouraged by the commitment of local and provincial government to stop illegal hunting along the coast and to designate a protected area for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Local and national NGOs assisted in the workshop and WWF Hong Kong and the Paulson Institute in particular announced their interest and assistance in collaborating with the local government and SBS in China to conserve the crucial tidal flats.

‘This is a historic moment in the conservation of the species’ stated Dr Christoph Zöckler of the SBS Task Force. ‘For the first time since our efforts to conserve the species began in 2000, we can realistically hope that with the continuing commitment of the local and provincial government and leadership from national authorities and NGOs in China that we can indeed turn the tide – and save the species from extinction’

As part of this work, Prof. Chang Qing, of Nanjing Normal University, who advises the Forest Department of the Jiangsu Province on environmental issues stated: ‘We now hope to create a working group of local government and NGOs that involves all stakeholders in the future planning of wetland reserves and their management.’

‘I am very pleased to see so many Spoon-billed Sandpiper here in Rudong concluded Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources, SBS Task Force Chair. He added: ‘We hope that these vital sites can be protected for the future. I will encourage my ministry to include both Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, which breed exclusively in Russia, into the recently signed bilateral agreement on migratory bird conservation between China and Russia.’

Jing Li SBS in China [email protected]
Dr. Christoph Zöckler SBS Task Force Coordinator [email protected]
Kim Minseon EAAFP Program Officer [email protected]


Notes to editors:

(1) The international Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force is set up under the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership to implement conservation measures to reverse the declines in the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a small sandpiper with a uniquely shaped bill that nests in the Russian Arctic, and migrates through Eastern Asia to winter in Southern and SE Asia

Experts in the survey team came from Russia, China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Myanmar, the UK and the US.

(2) The intergovernmental Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:

Ramsar criteria for identifying internationally important wetlands:

List of existing Ramsar sites in China:

(3) Critically Endangered: a Species “Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future” (IUCN (2013):

(4) The survey and workshop was generously funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the German Manfred Hermsen Foundation as well as supported with donations collected at the Helgoland Bird Days in 2012. The workshop held immediately after the survey on 20-21 October in Rudong, was co-hosted with the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Jiangsu Province, and the Nantong and Rudong local governments. All participants recognized the importance of protecting the Rudong intertidal wetlands not only for the two globally threatened species but also for about 100,000-150,000 other waders and the livelihood of thousands of local fishermen. The workshop also addressed the threat posed by the introduced invasive Spartina grass and illegal hunting. Participants were encouraged by the commitment of local and provincial government officers to strengthen their efforts in protecting Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other wader (shorebird) species. [29/10/13]

Birds Korea English Article

Birds Korea Korean Article

Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung German Article

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