“Waterbirds of the East Asian Flyway coastal wetlands are facing extinction”

Nial Moores, July 10th 2012

Ramsar Convention conferences always provide an important public focus for wetland conservation activities. And during the past week, two major resources have been made available online.

The first, a report on South-east and East Asian intertidal wetlands published by the IUCN, states unambiguously that:

“fisheries and vital ecological services are collapsing and ecological disasters increasing, with resulting impacts on human livelihoods. Migratory waterbird species along the (East Asian-Australasian) flyway are showing exceptionally rapid declines. These declines are linked mainly to the disappearance and degradation of migratory staging posts, rather than problems on the breeding or wintering grounds.

Waterbirds that depend on the Asian intertidal habitats of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) during their non-breeding season are the world’s most threatened migratory birds, apart from albatrosses and petrels.”

This report, certain to provide a focus for discussion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held here in the ROK this September (and beyond), is based on extensive expert consultation and opportunities for comment by decision-makers along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The scientific evidence presented within it supports what Birds Korea and others have been saying for years: reclamation has massive costs – on shorebird populations, on ecological systems, and of course on people.

It is therefore unsurprising that the report highlights Saemangeum as an example of the negative impacts of reclamation.

To download the full text of the report, go to:

http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/our_work/regional_initiatives/asian_coastal_wetlands/

A second important resource made available this week is the Fifth Waterbird Population Estimates, produced by Wetlands International. As stated in the preamble,

“The Waterbird Population Estimates (WPE) online database provides current and historic estimates, trends and 1% thresholds for over 800 waterbird species and 2300 biogeographic populations worldwide. This project has been developed by Wetlands International with the support of Environment Canada and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The online database makes it easy to obtain information on the status of waterbird species, providing a comprehensive basis for management and decision making”

Please go to:

http://wpe.voidwalkers.nl/

The data and information freely provided by the IUCN, by Wetlands International and by BirdLife International (responsible for assessing the threat category of each bird species on behalf of the IUCN, and for producing the excellent Factsheets on each species) all tell the same vitally important truth. Shorebirds, tidal-flats and human communities are linked together. The Yellow Sea is now one of the most threatened ecoregions in the world. Without major changes in policy, many species will go extinct, livelihoods will be lost, and ecological (and economic) disasters will increase.

There is scientific consensus. And now we need popular and political consensus: this is the time to change the ways in which we think and the ways in which we act.

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