Indexed on: 13 Aug '16Published on: 12 Aug '16Published in: Biological Conservation
Many waterbird species, in particularly migratory shorebirds, on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway depend on the intertidal areas of coastal China. In recent years, these habitats have suffered severe shrinkage as a result of wetland loss and degradation. Identifying critical areas for waterbirds and assessing conservation status has become an urgent priority for biological conservation. Based on the criteria used to designate Ramsar sites and East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Flyway Network sites, a general framework is proposed and applied to identify priority sites in China's coastal wetlands using a comprehensive waterbird survey dataset. Sites priority were evaluated by using appearance of globally threatened bird species, and bid species exceeding 1% of their global or flyway population, and population abundance. Sites priorities were ranked using an “irreplaceability index”. Totally, 110 sites are proposed as priority sites. Considering the strategic importance of China's coastal wetlands for migratory waterbirds, the conservation status of China's coastal wetlands is inadequate to protect these waterbirds. Currently, 67 of the 110 priority sites lie outside protected areas. Some critical habitats for waterbirds are not included in individual protected areas, especially in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Hebei provinces. Improved protection of these areas is urgently needed. However, conservation efforts in China's coastal wetlands face numerous challenges. Many important intertidal areas are increasingly threatened by ongoing and future reclamation plans. There is an urgent need to re-consider and limit the reclamation, particularly at critical sites, and put in place conservation measures to protect migratory waterbirds and their habitats.