Many groups of migratory shorebird appear to be showing widespread decline. Recent research on migratory birds and shorebirds in Japan and around Australia indicate that some species appear to have declined by anywhere from 30% to 80% in the past 15 to 30 years.
Most migratory shorebirds feed in the non-breeding season on invertebrates living under the mud and sand. On their northern migrations these birds must stop at least once at habitats rich in food to fatten up again. One of the most important and widely used areas to stop and refuel is in East Asia’s Yellow Sea.
There is growing evidence that the critical refuelling habitats in the Yellow Sea are declining rapidly (see Nick Murray’s story on page 8). In fact many decision makers in these areas view intertidal habitats as an easy place to reclaim cheap land from the sea for other uses, something that has been witnessed in the past in many wetlands of Australia. The increasing popularity of these kinds of developments over the past few decades can easily be seen from space.