Dr. Nial Moores, Birds Korea, August 22, 2018
Back in early July, spent a long but highly enjoyable day in Seoul, meeting with colleagues (old and new, including the wonderful folks at Lush Korea!). The day included a 30-minute meeting with the tireless and extremely hard-working Ms Kim Choony (Head of International Affairs of the nation’s largest environmental NGO, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements) and Mr Jeong Han-Cheol of Hwaseong KFEM, to discuss possible ways forward for the conservation of what used to be known as Namyang Bay, and which is now known as Hwaseong Tidal Flat and Hwaseong Reclamation Lake.
Namyang Bay in March 2000 (before seawall closure): image courtesy of Yi Jeong Yong (Yi 2003)
Area as it is now, courtesy of Google Earth.
This is the site where we counted 35,000 Great Knot this spring; where we found large numbers of oversummering Far Eastern Curlew and Grey Plover last June (along with an oversummering Nordmann’s Greenshank); and where the ROK’s first (or second?) Greater Flamingo was recorded the year before.
Together with Hwaseong City, KFEM is organising a major international symposium on the conservation of this area (“The Great Flight”) which will be held on September 6th. We, Birds Korea, are supporting this process, through helping to identify and contact best potential attendees; by outlining possible strategies and approaches (i.e. focus on Great Knot); and by doing what we can to help increase awareness of this internationally important and still highly-threatened site. Hence this blog post. We will also be presenting there too, of course (please come along if you have time!).
Below are some bullet points about the internationally important wetlands at Hwaseong, which I wrote as part of preparation for a meeting with the esteemed Mayor later this week and would like to share more widely:
- The most important area for bird and wetland conservation in Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi Province, is the former Namyang Bay, which was largely impounded in 2006. This wetland was formerly ecologically-connected to the nearby Asan Bay (now largely reclaimed), with some species of shorebird (e.g. Great Knot and Black-tailed Godwit) moving between both sites dependent on tides and disturbance level; and with large concentrations (at least until 1998) of shorebirds, including Black-tailed Godwit, in older rice-field areas that lay between Asan Bay and Namyang Bay.
- Namyang Bay was first surveyed in 1988 by a joint team from Kyung hee University (led by Prof. Won Pyong-Oh) and East Anglia University, who found the site to be internationally important for shorebirds (Long et al. 1988).
- Subsequent survey by researchers within the Ministry of Environment also identified Namyang Bay as one of the most important sites in the ROK, supporting an estimated 104,000 shorebirds annually between 1997 and 2003 (70,000 during northward migration; 34,000 during southward migration) (Yi 2003).
- Following completion of the 9.81km long seawall (started in 1991 and closed in 2006 – like Saemangeum), 6,212ha of former tidal flat and sea-shallow was converted to a reservoir and land. The reclamation area is currently said to be comprised of 4,482ha of land (mostly under-construction rice-fields, with some area also used as a freshwater eco-park) and a brackish lake of 1,730ha (Hwaseong KFEM).
- The reclamation lake has some seawater exchange, to help reduce water quality problems first noted, apparently, in 2000 (Hwaseong KFEM).
- The site currently contains two ecologically-connected parts: (1) the still near-natural tidal flat covering about 1,500 ha at low tide, itself divided into two areas at mid-high tide (the “Kia Tidal Flat”, covering c. 750 ha at lowest tide; and the main Maehyang-Ri Tidal Flat, close to the southeast end of the seawall, covering >700ha at lowest tide); and (2) the Hwaseong Reclamation Lake and adjacent hinterland as above (c. 4,500 ha still largely undeveloped, mostly east of the reclamation lake, and towards and close to the seawall).
- The various components of the site are ecologically-connected, as Black-faced Spoonbills and many of the shorebirds that feed on the tidal flat fly across the outer sea-dyke to roost and / or forage in the Hwaseong Reclamation Lake through the high tide period.
- There are plans – details entirely unclear at present! – to develop much of the reclaimed land; and perhaps for the air-force to use tidal flat areas for practice? (the US air-force used to conduct bombing practice on the small islands offshore from Maehyang-Ri).
- Birds Korea are working with KFEM (and an increasing number of additional willing partners!) to try to raise the profile of the site, by highlighting that: (1) the area is internationally important; (2) the area has enormous potential for nature tourism and environmental education; and (3) conservation of the area – e.g. through designation as an EAAFP Shorebird Site and subsequently as a Ramsar site, could and would provide many more benefits long-term to Hwaseong city and citizens than continuing degradation through infrastructural development; construction of low-intensity industrial estates; recreational “abuse”; and use by the air force,
In its current condition, based on a limited review of data by Birds Korea, Hwaseong Tidal Flat, Hwaseong Reclamation Lake and wetlands in the hinterland meet the following Ramsar Criterion:
Criterion 1: Representative type of natural wetland (tidal flat), with diverse tidal flat flora; and rare type of artificial wetland (large tidal lagoon with extensive saltmarsh and freshwater, agricultural hinterland)
Criterion 2: Supports internationally important concentrations of at least four threatened waterbird species (Black-faced Spoonbill EN; Far Eastern Curlew EN; Great Knot EN; Saunders’s Gull VU) and regularly supports smaller numbers of several additional threatened and near threatened species (e.g. Oriental Stork EN; Chinese Egret VU)
Criterion 5: Supports 40,000+ shorebirds annually (and has done since first surveys in 1988); and thousands of other waterbirds
- Probably nine waterbird species are currently recorded regularly in internationally important concentrations of 1% or more of population (based on estimates in Wetlands International 2018):
- Black-faced Spoonbill: 3-6%
- Far Eastern Oystercatcher: 3-4%
- Grey Plover: 1%
- Mongolian Plover: 1%
- Far Eastern Curlew: 1-2%
- Eurasian Curlew: 2%
- Bar-tailed Godwit: 1%
- Great Knot: 3-12%
- Saunders’s Gull: 1-2%
- An additional four waterbird species probably occur regularly in internationally important concentrations, but count data are inadequate to confirm
- Dunlin: ~1%
- Terek Sandpiper: ~1%
- Common Greenshank: ~1%, with peak counts of 1,100 and 1,023 in Sep 2010 and 2013
- Nordmann’s Greenshank: ~1%
- Probably a further six waterbird species have been recorded in internationally important concentrations on one or more occasion
- Tundra Bean Goose: >10% (Dec. 2015)
- Greater White-fronted Goose: >2% (Dec. 2014)
- Common Shelduck: 6% (Jan. 2005)
- Mallard: 75,952 or >3% (Dec. 2015)
- Black-tailed Godwit: >10,000 (May 1988); 2,300 (May 1998)
- Red Knot: 2,000 (May 1993), 3-4%
Please share this information widely – while citing the source as Birds Korea (thank you!) – and please also consider supporting our work, for Namyang Bay/ Hwaseong and for many of the other sites and issues we are engaged in (Baekryeong, Goseong, status of birds etc). There is always much to do, and always far too few people to do it!