Evidence-based conservation for migratory shorebirds

Millions of migratory shorebirds visit Australia each year from their breeding grounds in the Arctic. But these amazing travellers are declining extremely rapidly, according to research at UQ in collaboration with community groups that monitor the birds. For example, the eastern curlew has declined by 80% in 30 years. Using the UQ work, the Australian Government, recently listed seven species of migratory shorebird as nationally threatened, significantly adding to the protections for these declining species and influencing development decisions around the nation.

UQ research showed the birds are declining mainly because their migration pathway takes them through the highly degraded Yellow Sea of East Asia, where the birds stop to feed and rest. We are working with Queensland state government, the Burnett Mary Regional Group and four councils in Moreton Bay to implement evidence-based conservation. Internationally, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership is using the research to inform conservation action plans for the eastern curlew, and also to plan conservation actions with 22 governments around the migratory flyway.

Our work on migratory species is influencing national policy. In April 2016 Commonwealth Environment Minister Greg Hunt launched a migratory shorebird conservation plan, that begins to implement some of our lab’s research, along with that of others, on this issue over the past five years. Crucially, Minister Hunt also announced that Gregory Andrews, the Threatened Species Commissioner, had been appointed as a special emissary to East Asia to work with China and Korea to protect our migratory birds when they leave our shores, something that our science has shown is crucially necessary. We have been invited by the Commonwealth Government to brief them on these topics as they continue high level discussions with China and Korea on migratory species conservation.

Project members

Associate Professor Richard Fuller

Associate Professor Richard Fuller

ARC Future Fellow
School of Biological Sciences