Science magazine and NPR: Yellow Sea Reclamation and Song Do

Dr. Nial Moores, Birds Korea

Songdo-reclamation-Nov2014_NM-2Song Do Tidal-flat, late 2014 (including much of the “Ramsar site”): it used all to be internationally important for waterbirds.


Two recent online articles capture some of the challenges that Birds Korea is trying to overcome through our work.

The first is an excellently short and sweet (or should that be sour?) article on the East Asian reclamation crisis posted on the news website of Science last week. Written by Christine Larson, it has the title of “Hostile Shores”, and explains how:

“Ecologists are tracking with dismay how migratory bird populations in Asia are now crashing…

Perhaps nowhere else in the world has the loss of habitat for migratory birds been as sudden and severe as in the Yellow Sea. In just 5 decades, between 50% and 80% of the tidal flats along 4000 kilometers of coast-line in China and the Koreas has been lost to development…

In the Yellow Sea, however, development shows no sign of abating.

‘The drastic loss of habitat [in China, the Koreas, and Japan] is the most important issue,’ says Hiroyoshi Higuchi, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo who studies bird migratory routes. Japan and the Koreas both have a long history of reclaiming wetlands for agricultural and industrial use. In one big blow to the flyway, in 2006, South Korea erased what Moores calls ‘one of the most important known shorebird sites in the Yellow Sea’—the Saemangeum estuarine tidal flat – by enclosing it with an enormous seawall.”

The whole article can be accessed through the “Read the Full Text link” at the bottom of the intro page (and if that fails, we can be contacted for a pdf).

The second is an NPR piece on Song Do city. As first shared by Jim Hadley (of, this article is “Balanced from an urban planning perspective, but leaves out pre-development habitat concerns”.

These “pre-development habitat concerns” include, of course, the ongoing ecological collapse of the Yellow Sea caused by the very same large-scale tidal-flat reclamation at Song Do and elsewhere, as described in the Science article.

When will people start to understand the real costs (and benefits if any?) of large-scale reclamation and factor those in to ALL discussions of development when it entails the destruction of some of the world’s most naturally productive ecosystems?

Birds Korea: we are doing what we can, but we do need more support – your support – so we can use science and honest common sense to help raise awareness, and to get heard over all of the gross hyperbole and ecological ignorance of the “visionaries” who dreamed-up Song Do “Eco-city” and dammed Saemangeum.

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