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Persistent use of a shorebird staging site in the Yellow Sea despite severe declines in food resources implies a lack of alternatives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2018

SHOU-DONG ZHANG
Affiliation:
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, People’s Republic of China.
ZHIJUN MA*
Affiliation:
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, People’s Republic of China.
CHI-YEUNG CHOI
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia; and Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Integrative Ecology, 75 Pigdons Road, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia.
HE-BO PENG
Affiliation:
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, People’s Republic of China. Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands.
QING-QUAN BAI
Affiliation:
Forestry Bureau of Dandong, Dandong, 118000, People’s Republic of China.
WEN-LIANG LIU
Affiliation:
School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, 200241, People’s Republic of China.
KUN TAN
Affiliation:
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, People’s Republic of China.
DAVID S. MELVILLE
Affiliation:
1261 Dovedale Road, RD2 Wakefield, Nelson 7096, New Zealand.
PENG HE
Affiliation:
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, People’s Republic of China.
YING-CHI CHAN
Affiliation:
Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands. NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems and Utrecht University, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.
JAN A. VAN GILS
Affiliation:
NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems and Utrecht University, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.
THEUNIS PIERSMA
Affiliation:
Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands. NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems and Utrecht University, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.
*
*Author for correspondence, e-mail: zhijunm@fudan.edu.cn

Summary

Many shorebird populations are in decline along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The rapid loss of coastal wetlands in the Yellow Sea, which provide critical stop-over sites during migration, is believed to be the cause of the alarming trends. The Yalu Jiang coastal wetland, a protected area in the north Yellow Sea, supports the largest known migratory staging populations of Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica (menzbieri and baueri subspecies) and Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris. Monitoring of the macrozoobenthos food for these shorebirds from 2011 to 2016 showed declines of over 99% in the densities of the bivalve Potamocorbula laevis, the major food here for both Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots. The loss of the bivalve might be caused by any combination of, but not limited to: (1) change in hydrological conditions and sediment composition due to nearby port construction, (2) run-off of agrochemicals from the extensive shoreline sea cucumber farms, and (3) parasitic infection. Surprisingly, the numbers of birds using the Yalu Jiang coastal wetland remained stable during the study period, except for the subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit L. l. menzbieri, which exhibited a 91% decline in peak numbers. The lack of an overall decline in the number of bird days in Great Knots and in the peak numbers of L. l. baueri, also given the published simultaneous decreases in their annual survival, implies a lack of alternative habitats that birds could relocate to. This study highlights that food declines at staging sites could be an overlooked but important factor causing population declines of shorebirds along the Flyway. Maintaining the quality of protected staging sites is as important in shorebird conservation as is the safeguarding of staging sites from land claim. Meanwhile, it calls for immediate action to restore the food base for these beleaguered migrant shorebirds at Yalu Jiang coastal wetland.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © BirdLife International 2018 

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Persistent use of a shorebird staging site in the Yellow Sea despite severe declines in food resources implies a lack of alternatives
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