The Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) has just published a most disturbing paper about land reclamation in the coastal area between China and North and South Korea. The paper is titled "Minutes to Midnight". The tidal flats in this area are essential staging areas for shorebirds on their migration from the arctic to Australia and back again. The introduction to this article on the AWSG site says that "while you are reading this article another hectare of shorebird habitat has disappeared in the Yellow Sea!"
It is not just birds that migrate to Australia and New Zealand that use this area. A study done in 2010 on Curlew Sandpipers in this area found leg flags from India, Thailand, Singapore, Sumatra, Taiwan, Shanghai and six sites in Australia.
Each year that I have been monitoring and counting shorebirds in the southern Great Sandy Strait I have seen fewer and fewer shorebirds returning to our area. The habitat here has changed very little in this time. The problem is there are fewer and fewer sites in the Yellow Sea area where the birds can feed on their migrations.
The scale of the problem is high-lighted by figures on individual species. Numbers of Great Knots have decreased by 50% in the last 25 years. Eastern Curlew numbers have declined by 20% in the last five years!
A posting by Adrian Boyle on the Birding-Aus site is even more depressing. He is presently in the area counting shorebirds. He mentions two other species - Red Knot and Curlew Sandpiper - at risk because of reclamation which is happening right now. Another site, just south of where he is, was where last year 24 of the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers were observed. This site is also now under development.
I despair! How many shorebirds will not make it this year because their feeding sites have been destroyed? Will I get to the place where I count only a few score of shorebirds where now I count thousands? Why must we destroy so much of our planet!