Thursday, May 5, 2011

Disaster Looms for Shorebirds

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!


  1. Glad you have posted that news, Mick.
    I have been worried for some time by news like that, but your readership is much better attuned to the problems (and joys) of Waders,


  2. the egos of man and the incredible greed we breed into our cultures will be our own downfall - but probably not before we destroy everything around us...

  3. Hi Denis, yes it has been happening for a while but is now almost at the point of no return. As those articles that I linked to suggest we can use 'people power' on our own politicians to be heard but that does not work with China and North Korea. Nor did it work with South Korea when Saemangeum was drained in 2006. China and South Korea have both signed the Ramsar Treaty - but it has not made a scrap of difference, apparently!

    Hi Texwisgirl, I agree - greed is possibly at the root of the problem. The consumer culture takes no notice of anything except its own wants. A very Black thought with which to start my morning!

  4. Treasure what we still have. Rising human population and material need/greed don't leave hope other than minor victories this century.

  5. Hi Tony, I'm afraid you're right and we don't have much to look forward to. I think part of the problem is that lots of people don't even know what great things we presently have.

  6. Greed and stupidity. I am afraid that until the day when we finally manage to self-destruct our planet will suffer.
    We are already getting the Paybacks and are not waking up.
    It indeed is a sad world in that regard :-(

  7. Hi Nicole, It's a very pessimistic outlook. :-(

  8. I know, but I see it as the most 'realistic'.
    We know, I think, that history repeats itself and humans never really learn.
    There is more and more people on this Globe, everyone wants to get more money, live better, go on nice vacations. Even the people in the poorer countries are getting on 'higher' Levels. At least many of them.
    Wars will never stop either.
    One of these days we either blow ourselves up or 'Mother Nature' will keep kicking us in the a** until either nothing of us is left or only a few.
    If you get a chance, read this book: The Swarm, by Frank Schaetzing
    It's only a Novel, but I think that scenario could easily happen one day.
    I hope I am too pessimistic,.... but numbers tell different and what I see going on re development,....

  9. Hi again, Nicole. Yes, I agree that's there's a lot to be pessimistic about - and society as a whole doesn't act responsibly. In whatever way the whole "mess" ends, I think the most important thing is for individuals to care for the environment closest to them and to live in such a way that those closest to them may be affected positively. I don't remember who it was that coined the phrase "The Power of One"!

  10. Hi Mick
    Good point. Bryce Courtenay wrote a book of that name, which was then filmed.
    It is at least somewhat optimistic in outlook.
    Some of us need to believe some improvement is possible.

  11. Thanks Nicole.
    And thanks Denis, for the reminder re Bryce Courtenay as the author of that quote. I SHOULD have remembered that :-(
    Yes, I do need to believe that it is possible for some improvement - the opposite is that anything I accomplish is useless in the end - and I don't think I could live with that viewpoint!