Impacts of Saemangeum Reclamation on Shorebirds

In May 2016, Emu  (journal of Austral Ornithology) published a special volume with the heading “The East Asian–Australasian Flyway: Population Trends, Threats and the Future”. The volume (Volume 116 Number 2 2016) included one paper from Korea entitled, “Reclamation of tidal flats and shorebird declines in Saemangeum and elsewhere in the Republic of Korea”.

The paper by Moores et al. (2016) includes count data from several sources including the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program conducted by Birds Korea and the AWSG in 2006-2008 and counts made by the Shorebird Network Korea between 2011 and 2014.  The results confirm, rather unsurprisingly, that the Saemangeum reclamation has resulted in massive shorebird declines.

The full paper can be purchased from CSIRO here; or can be provided at request by Birds Korea members and those working for shorebird conservation on the Flyway.  Please mail me at: nial(dot)moores(at)birdskorea(dot)org.

GreatKnot_Saemangeum_endofApril2006_NMooresGreat Knot, Saemangeum, less than a month after seawall close in April 2006 © Nial Moores

Abstract.  Saemangeum in the Republic of Korea (ROK, “South Korea”) was one of the most important shorebird staging sites in the Yellow Sea.  It supported at least 330,000 shorebirds annually in 1997-2001 including ~ 30% of the world population of Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) during both northward and southward migration.  Construction of a 33km long seawall was completed in April 2006. We show that shorebird numbers at Saemangeum and two adjacent wetlands decreased by 130,000 during northward migration in the next two years and that all species have declined at Saemangeum since seawall closure. Great Knot was among the most rapidly affected species.  Fewer than 5,000 shorebirds were recorded at Saemangeum during northward migration in 2014. We found no evidence to suggest that the majority of shorebirds of any species displaced from Saemangeum successfully relocated to other ROK sites.  Instead, by 2011-2013 nearly all species had declined substantially in the ROK since previous national surveys in 2008 and 1998, especially at more heavily reclaimed sites.  It is likely that these declines were driven by increased mortality rather than movement to alternate staging sites given that other studies have revealed concurrent declines in numbers and survival on the non-breeding grounds. This is the first study in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway to confirm shorebird declines at a range of geographical scales following a single reclamation project. The results indicate that if migratory shorebirds are displaced from major staging sites by reclamation they are probably unable to successfully relocate to alternate sites.


Full citation:

Moores, N., Rogers, D.I., Rogers, K. and Hansbro, P.M. 2016. Reclamation of tidal flats and shorebird declines in Saemangeum and elsewhere in the Republic of Korea. Emu, 116, 2: 136-146. Published by CSIRO.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.