Yellow Sea World Heritage: CBCS researchers key to nomination success

Hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds spend each summer in Australia before undertaking astounding 20,000 km roundtrip journeys to their breeding grounds in northern China, Russia, Mongolia and Alaska. In July 2019, several key sites in Jiangsu province along China’s Yellow Sea coastline were inscribed as Phase I of the two-phase serial World Heritage nomination “Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea/Bohai Gulf of China”, which will eventually include at least 16 sites. The newly inscribed sites include vital habitat for the Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper and thousands of other shorebirds, which in 2017 was still under threat from plans for coastal reclamation.

CBCS leads in Yellow Sea inscription

CBCS researchers were integral to an international research effort that has shown that multiple species of these remarkable birds have steeply declined in numbers as a result of severe coastal habitat loss, particularly in the Yellow Sea region. Fortunately, CBCS researchers are now also offering leadership towards conserving critical remaining intertidal habitat in the Yellow Sea.

Micha Jackson, a CBCS PhD student, has conducted important work in Jiangsu province along China’s Yellow Sea that has a role in securing the region’s wetlands for shorebird conservation. CBCS’s Professor Richard Fuller has been advocating for shorebird conservation for many years and was a key advisor to Australia’s World Heritage representatives, who in turn played a key leadership role in ensuring the success of the nomination. Nonetheless, inscription of the Phase I sites is only the first step towards securing Yellow Sea wetlands for shorebirds. Micha helped to highlight the urgent need for additional management of high tide shorebird habitat, was part of the international community representation at the 2019 Yellow and Bohai Sea Wetlands International Conference, which took place in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. The meeting celebrated the Phase I nomination, but also provided a forum for important discussions about how the recently inscribed World Heritage sites need to be managed, and to advance preparations for the forthcoming Phase II nomination.

Protecting our region’s shorebirds

China’s World Heritage nomination is complemented by the Republic of Korea’s “Getbol Korean Tidal Flats” World Heritage nomination, which also includes critical shorebird habitat and is scheduled for consideration in 2020. World Heritage status for all these coastal wetland sites would secure globally important habitat for multiple species of migratory waterbirds and represent an enormous contribution to the conservation and management of the world’s intertidal flats and associated coastal wetlands. These are exceptionally productive ecosystems that support biodiversity of high conservation importance and provide high value ecosystem services.

CBCS will continue to provide leadership in the large-scale, multi-country collaborative effort that is needed to secure the future of our region’s imperilled shorebirds.

Reference

Jackson, M.V., Carrasco, L. R., Choi, C.-Y., Li, J., Ma, Z., Melville, D.S., Mu, T., Peng, H.-B., Woodworth, B.K., Yang, Z., Zhang, L. & Fuller, R.A. (2019) Multiple habitat use by declining migratory birds necessitates joined‐up conservation. Ecology & Evolution, 9, 2505–2515. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4895

Photo: Micha Jackson

Project members

Micha Jackson

Micha Jackson

PhD Student
School of Biological Sciences
Fuller Lab Group
Associate Professor Richard Fuller

Professor Richard Fuller

ARC Future Fellow
School of Biological Sciences