Results help identify rapidly disappearing staging and wintering grounds
Date: August 22, 2016
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society
Conservation of intertidal habitat -- 65 percent of which has been lost over the last 50 years -- is critical to the survival of countless birds during migration on the East Asian Australasian Flyway.
In an effort to understand the threats and inform conservation of these areas, scientists from The Institute of Biological Problems of the North (Russian Academy of Sciences) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) have collaborated to identify vital stopover areas for the dunlin, a shorebird known to migrate up to 7500 km (4700 miles) to reach its destination.
Arctic shorebirds breeding in Chukotka and Alaska depend upon key coastal intertidal sites along their migratory route to find food to supply energy on their flights. Such intertidal habitats are rapidly being lost to human development, resulting in marked declines of all species that have been studied on this flyway. Some, like the spoon-billed sandpiper, are now at critical risk of extinction, while 23 other species are now threatened, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction. Many others are in rapid decline, losing up to 10 percent of their numbers each year. A key driver of these losses is thought to be associated with development projects along the Yellow Sea coastline that convert intertidal mudflats to dry ground.
To better understand the nuanced threats to shorebird species that breed in Chukotka and nearby Alaska, Russian and American scientists have collaborated on a number of studies, including an assessment of nesting densities and factors influencing nest survival on breeding grounds in Russia. Most recently they have charted the migratory movements, timing, and wintering ground locations of a sub-species of dunlin, a relatively common shorebird that breeds in Chukotka.