Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Supplement 1, pp 217–225 | Cite as

Protecting stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds in East Asia

  • Nicholas J. Murray
  • Richard A. FullerEmail author


Many migratory species depend on staging sites at which they refuel while on migration, and effective protection of such habitats is crucial to their conservation. Here we investigate the extent to which protected areas cover and ameliorate loss of tidal flats in East Asia, the key staging habitat for threatened and declining shorebirds migrating through the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. We discover rapid losses of the tidal flat ecosystem both inside (−0.42 % year−1) and outside (−0.89 % year−1) protected areas. In China, tidal flats are well represented within protected areas (22.9 % of current tidal flats occur within protected areas), but habitat loss continued despite protection (−0.55 % year−1 inside, −0.97 % year−1 outside). By contrast, in South Korea, where 12.1 % of remaining tidal flat is in protected areas, the rate of habitat loss outside protected areas was the highest in our study region (−1.83 % year−1), yet inside protected areas there was tidal flat aggradation (+1.13 % year−1), indicating either that protected area placement is biased away from vulnerable habitats, or protected areas are highly effective in South Korea. Tidal flats across our study area were lost most rapidly in internationally important sites for migratory shorebirds (−1.66 % year−1), suggesting that transformative land use change of coastal areas is occurring disproportionately in regions that are important for migratory birds. We urge (1) improved management of existing protected areas in East Asia, particularly in China, (2) targeted designation of new protected areas in sites crucial for supporting migratory birds and (3) integrated decision-making that simultaneously plans for coastal development and coastal conservation.


Protected areas Migratory species China South Korea North Korea Coastal development Habitat loss 



We thank R. Ferrari, D. Melville, J. Mackinnon, X. Yan and Z. Ma for advice and discussion. This project was supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant LP100200418, co-funded by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Queensland Wader Study Group and the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd. Additional support was provided by Birds Queensland, the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub, and the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship. Landsat data are freely available from the US Geological Survey.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and CSIRO Ecosystem SciencesBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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