Incheon Songdo Wetland, May 10 – Designation as Flyway Network Site

Dr. Bernhard Seliger with Maria Seliger

On Friday, May 10, on occasion of the World Migratory Bird Day, in Songdo, Incheon the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) celebrated the 10th anniversary of the EAAFP Secretariat. Among the guests were Cho Myung-Rae, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea, Park Nam-Chun, Mayor of Incheon, Martha Rojas, Secretary-General fo the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, and Pete Probasco, Chair of the EAAFP. Also Dr. Bernhard Seliger of Hanns-Seidel-Foundation Korea, partner of the EAAFP since 2017, joined the conference.

Among the highlights of the conference was the designation of two new Flyway Network Sites in the Republic of Korea, Incheon Songdo Wetland and Janghang Wetland near the inner-Korean border area. Flyway Network sites are sites of outstanding importance on the East Asian – Pacific flyway. Out of thousands such sites, 145 are forming a special network and are working together for the safe migration of certain species of waterbirds. While the designation itself has no direct legal impact for the site, it is a strong indication that site managers and the underlying administrative structure, e.g. local governments, national park services, or environmental departments and ministries, are committed to the protection of a certain site.

Take for example Incheon Songdo: once one of the most productive and important wetlands on the Korean Peninsula, the reclamation of Songdo for creating the new ultra-modern urban area dramatically reduced the wetland. Ironically, afterwards global environmental institutions like the EAAFP and the Green Climate Fund settled down in Songdo. Fortunately, some areas remained and some new one, like the breeding colony of Black-Faced Spoonbills, were added. The addition of Incheon Songdo Wetland to the list of Flyway Network sites does not solve all problems. Still, the ever-increasing trade and harbor development threaten the small remaining wetlands. But to recognize their importance is a first stop for better awareness and better protection of the sites.

A visit to Songdo wetland at the morning before the conference confirmed the importance for shorebirds and other rare seabirds, with Black-Faced Spoonbills, Saunders’ gulls, Far Eastern Curlews, Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstones, thousands of Dunlins, Grey Plovers, Mongolian Plovers, Great Egrets, Little Egrets, Common Greenshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, Terek Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts and other species still being present nearly at the end of the migration period.

Dunlins (Calidris alpina) in Songdo © Bernhard Seliger
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres © Bernhard Seliger
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola © Bernhard Seliger
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus © Maria Seliger
Black-Faced Spoonbills (Platalea minor) and Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) © Maria Seliger
Development pressure is great, but the designation as a Flyway Network Site could help raise awareness for the importance of Songdo wetland © Maria Seliger
Designation of Songdo Tidal Flat as a Flyway Network Site at the EAAFP Conference © Bernhard Seliger

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