Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project: Gomso/Jeulpo Bay

Birds Korea, March 2012

1. Introduction
1.1. Site Location
Gomso /Jeulpo Bay (centred at approximately 35°35′ N, 126°36′ E), is located in Gochang and Buan counties, Jeollabuk Province to the south of “Saemangeum” on the Yellow Sea coast of the Republic of Korea.

1.2 Site Description
The main bay extends approximately 15km west-east and 5.1km north-south at its mouth. The bay is fed by one small, free-flowing river (Incheon River) and several smaller creeks. Following an estimated loss of 680ha of intertidal wetland since 2006 (to fish-farms and other reclamation projects) between 4,500ha and 6,800ha of tidal-flat presently remains at low tide. Tidal-flats in the inner part of the bay are largely mud-sand mix, and lightly vegetated with saltmarsh. Outer tidal-flats are sandier, with low sand banks and ridges. The outer third or so of the bay is occupied by sea-shallows. Spring high tides reach c. 7m when the whole bay is inundated. The bay shoreline is largely artificial and in parts suffering from erosion. The hinterland is largely rural, with rice agriculture, fish-farms, saltpans and an increasing area of more heavily-modified landscape (golf-course, parkland etc).

1.3 Ornithological Research
There has been little detailed ornithological research in the bay. First surveys were conducted in the late 1990s, and the first multi-team surveys (focused on shorebirds) were conducted by Birds Korea and the Australasian Wader Studies Group between 2006 and 2008 as part of the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (Rogers et al. 2006, Moores et al. 2008). Since 2008, monitoring has been conducted by Mr. Ju Yung-Ki (Special Researcher, Jeonbuk University and Special Advisor to Birds Korea) achieving near-monthly coverage. The wetland is also surveyed during the Ministry of Environment winter bird census.

1.4 Ornithological Importance
Research has found Ramsar-defined internationally important concentrations of Far Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus (ostralegus) osculans (nationally Vulnerable), Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus and the globally Vulnerable Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi. At least nine additional globally-threatened bird species have also been recorded (Table 1).

Table 1 Globally Threatened Waterbirds in Gomso/Jeulpo Bay

Species Scientific Name Global Status (BirdLife 2012) National Status (MOE 2012)
Swan Goose Anser cygnoides Vulnerable Endangered
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana Endangered Endangered
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor Endangered Vulnerable
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes Vulnerable Endangered
Hooded Crane Grus monacha Vulnerable Endangered
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis Vulnerable Vulnerable
Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer Endangered Endangered
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris Vulnerable
Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus Critically Endangered Critically Endangered


Gochang Project Area Ramsar Site with newly constructed seawall


1.5 Wetland Conservation Status
Due to its high national and international importance to waterbirds and fisheries, the Gochang & Buan Tidal-flats Ramsar Site was designated as the world’s 1,931st Ramsar Site in February 2010. The Ramsar site covers 4,550ha and includes two nationally-protected areas, the Buan Julpo Bay Wetland Protected Area (490ha) and the Gochang Tidal-flat Wetland Protected Area (4,060ha). None of the hinterland is included in either the Ramsar site or national Wetland Protected Areas.

2. The Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project
2.1 Project Area
The restoration project area is located on the southern shore of the bay, in Gochang County (at approximately 35° 53,243 N, 126° 53,277 E). It covers 103.39ha, and is comprised of disused fish-ponds and natural intertidal wetland. A substantial part of the project area (+/- 20%) is natural tidal-flat within the designated Ramsar site.

2.2 Project Process
Several recently-reclaimed fish-ponds adjacent to the Gochang Tidal-flat had fallen into disuse, due to the erosion of several stretches of seawall. This area was proposed for restoration. According to Gochang County (2009, 2010a, 2010b), the national Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs designated the site as a Tidal-flat restoration area in March 2009, as part of a nationwide assessment of potential sites. This is the first such example nationwide. In August 2009, the basic plan for wetland conservation of the Gochang Tidal-flat Protected Area was established. The restoration project was then formulated in May 2010, and submitted for review in June 2010. Construction at the site started in 2009 and is expected to continue until 2013.

2.3 Project Funding
The total cost of the project is 15,900,000,000 Korean won (14,310,000USD).

2.4 Bird Survey and Monitoring
Bird Survey on January 1st and 2nd 2010 recorded 3,124 individuals of 27 species within and outside of the Project Area. These included two National Natural Monuments: Far Eastern Oystercatcher and Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus.

2.5 Project area and Zoning
Based on this survey and consultation, the project area was subdivided into six areas, with narrow sluice gates (<2m) constructed to control tidal exchange.
1) Zone A: “Saltmarsh”, a lagoon of 14.64ha, formed by the impoundment of disused fish-ponds behind strengthened and reconstructed seawalls. As depicted (see image) this area will be used by Far Eastern Oystercatcher and Chinese Egret;
2) Zone B: “Saltmarsh Plant”, an area of 30.85ha of former fish-ponds, impounded with two sluices to allow tidal exchange behind strengthened and reconstructed seawall;
3) Zone C (largely within the Ramsar Site): “Tidal-flat”, an area of 28.78ha to be created by construction of a bridge across a naturally open tidal-flat, linking Zone B, Zone C and Zone D;
4) Zone D: “Reed-bed” an area of 15.46ha of former fish-ponds to be formed by the strengthening and reconstruction of seawalls;
5) Zone E: “Saltmarsh”, a lagoon of 6.7ha formed by the impoundment of disused fish-ponds behind strengthened and reconstructed seawalls. As depicted, this area to be used by Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus);
6) Zone Untitled: a 6.65ha area of rice-field and reedbed to be used for the construction of a centre and a car park.


Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Banner

2.6 Restoration Project Target Bird Species
Three bird species were selected by project developers as the key target species of the restoration project: Far Eastern Oystercatcher, Far Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica.

According to Birds Korea research, all three species feed in the intertidal zone, and prefer to roost standing in water on gently-sloping tidal-flat (Far Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit) or on exposed sand, shell or rock islands (Far Eastern Oystercatcher). If optimal roost sites are unavailable, lightly vegetated saltmarsh is used (Far Eastern Curlew), as are gently-sloping seawalls (Far Eastern Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit) and some other artificial structures (Bar-tailed Godwit).

3. Guidelines and Standards for Saltmarsh and Tidal-flat restoration
There is an increasing body of literature and guidance available on the restoration of intertidal wetlands and saltmarsh. Two main sources are included below.

3.1 Ramsar Guidance
Guidance and principles of wetland restoration are provided in Ramsar Resolution V111.16. Ramsar (2012) states:
1) A clear understanding and statement of goals, objectives, and performance standards (i.e. using changes in species’ distribution and population to measure the success of the project) for wetland restoration projects is a critical part of restoration success;
2) Natural processes and existing conditions should be considered during project selection, design, and development. To the extent that is possible, ecological engineering principles should be applied in preference to methods requiring hard structures or extensive excavation;
3) Recommendation 4.1 of the Ramsar Convention rightly notes that “the maintenance and conservation of existing wetlands is always preferable and more economical than their subsequent restoration” and “restoration schemes must not weaken efforts to conserve existing natural systems”;
4) Wetland restoration should be an open process that involves local community stakeholders as well as stakeholders who will be affected by a project even though they may be geographically distant;
5) Restoration requires long-term stewardship, including ongoing management and monitoring;
6) Restoration interventions should be coupled with measures to raise awareness and influence the behaviours and practices that led to the degradation of the ecosystem, in order to ensure that the causes, as well as the effects, of degradation are addressed.

3.2 International Best Practice
Two case studies are cited here, both from the UK and taken from: Nottage & Robertson (2005):
1) Nigg Bay (Pp. 103-108): Landward realignment of an existing line of sea defence through breaching of the seawall to create up to 25ha of saltmarsh and mudflat. As with all such restoration projects, the process included:
a) Detailed design and impact study;
b) Extensive consultation;
c) Permits and licensing;
d) Management works – including removal of terrestrial vegetation and the opening of two 20m wide gaps in the seawall to enable the sea to enter the land
e) Monitoring, both within the restoration area and the adjacent bay. This included monitoring of waterbird use; invertebrate sampling; sedimentation/erosion sampling; saltmarsh mapping; and vegetation survey. Total project cost was 85,000USD/95million Korean won.

2) Orplands (Pp. 85-89): Landward realignment of an existing sea defence though breaching of the seawall to create approximately 40ha of saltmarsh. The seawall protecting an area of reclaimed tidal-flat was already damaged by erosion. In addition to the process outlined above, Management works included:
a) Making two breaks in the seawall;
b) Constructing creeks and a drainage system behind the seawall;
c) Placement of material excavated during creek construction to create wave-breaks outside of the seawall (to reduce the possibility of erosion caused by waves);
d) Installation of low brushwood fencing near the outer seawall to reduce wave erosion.

4. Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project and Birds Korea
Birds Korea is a legally-registered Non-government organisation based in Busan. We work for the conservation of birds and their habitats in Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Ecoregion. We are a domestic organisation with strong international outreach and support. We operate websites in both Korean (http://www.birdskorea.or.kr) and in English (http://www.birdskorea.org), and we have overseas members in over 30 nations.

We have a long connection with Gomso/Jeulpo Bay. Our core members conducted the first waterbird counts in Gomso/Jeulpo Bay (in 1998), and also the first multi-team surveys (2006-2008), helping to identify the site’s international importance for waterbirds. We also have experience in wetland restoration and in wetland monitoring. Our organisation is advised on the bay’s conservation by leading local expert, Mr. Ju Yung-Ki, a special researcher at Jeonbuk University and Special Advisor to Birds Korea. Mr Ju Yung-Ki has a long and deep connection to the wetland, conducting regular monitoring and working with local communities (see: Gochang County 2011).

The Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project is the first such project in the Republic of Korea. It is an example with which the nation’s commitment to wetland conservation and to conservation conventions (including Ramsar) will be measured. Therefore, Birds Korea will work to make this project known both nationally and internationally. We will monitor waterbirds at the site (with a special focus on threatened species and on the Project’s target species); we will post about the project regularly on our websites; we will present on the project to national and international meetings; and we will invite experts to the wetland to provide independent assessments of the restoration project’s strengths and its weaknesses.

Birds Korea: Birds, People and Wetlands Are One.

BirdLife International. 2012. IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 11/03/2012.
Gochang County. 2009. Gochang Tidal-flat Wetland Conservation Area Management Project
and Tidal-flat Restoration Project Basic Plan Report.
Gochang County. 2010a. Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project Action Design Report.
Gochang County. 2010b. Gochang Tidal-flat Restoration Project Pre-Environmental Survey Report.

Gochang County. 2011. Gochang Tuo Village. Farming and fishing village near the Gochang
Tidal-flat Restoration Area. Published by Gochang County and Korea Village Research
Ministry of Environment (MOE). 2011. Red Data Book of Endangered Birds in Korea.
Published April 2011. IS BN 978-89-94555-68-3 9447
Moores, N., Rogers, D., Kim R-H, Hassel, C., Gosbell, K., Kim S-A & Park M-N. 2008. The
2006-2008 Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program Report. Birds Korea publication.
Nottage A. & P. Robertson. 2005. The Saltmarsh creation handbook: a project
manager’s guide to the creation of saltmarsh and intertidal habitat.
Sandy and CIWEM, London.
Ramsar. 2012. Ramsar Guidance on Restoration, downloaded on 11/03/2012 from :

Rogers, D., Moores, N. & P.Battley. 2006. Northwards Migration of Shorebirds through
Saemangeum, the Geum Estuary and Gomso Bay, South Korea in 2006. Stilt 50: 73-89.
Published by the Australasian Wader Studies Group.

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