Wednesday 9 January 2013

Disappearing inter-tidal flats.

Inter-tidal flats are the expanses of mud and sand that occur between the low and high water lines along coasts and estuaries. They are sandwiched between the true marine and land environments.

They are disappearing at an alarming rate and this is especially true of Asia where our belovèd and critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other notable birds such as the endangered Nordmann's Greenshank pass a large part of their year along with millions of other birds of many species. These habitats are vital to their survival and must not be allowed to disappear.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
According to a recent ICUN report* "current estimates of the rate of intertidal habitat loss in Asia are equal to or greater than recorded losses of mangroves (Giri et al. 2011), tropical forest (Achard et al. 2002) and
seagrasses (Waycott et al. 2009). For example, over the past 50 years, losses of up to 51% of coastal
wetlands (including marshes) have occurred in China (An et al. 2007b), 40% in Japan, 60% in the
Republic of Korea (ROK), and more than 70% in Singapore (Hilton & Manning 1995, Yee et al. 2010)."

Great Knot a species much affected by inter-tidal flat loss.
This report also states that awareness of the situation regarding habitat loss on inter-tidal flats is low among governments, media and the public (among others), and it is this that Wader Quest, in its small and humble way was set up to try and address. It is a tough, slow going progress, it is hard to get people to respond to acres of mud with distant, little, brown blobs running around it, not as sexy as bright gaudy tanagers in a lush rainforest, and we still have to overcome the hurdle of getting people to take us seriously! We have committed ourselves to this in every way and are determined to make a difference, but it is hard to get past the image held by some that we are simply of a couple of birders building our lists in the name of conservation. Maybe one day we'll get there, in the meantime we will continue with the project, talk to anyone who'll listen formally or informally and try to bring this serious problem faced by the world's waders to the attention of as many people as we can.

Where will these birds feed if the world's mud flats are lost?

Hudsonian Godwit

White-rumped Sandpiper

Piping Plover

Grey Plover and Hudsonian Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Terek Sandpiper

*MacKinnon, J., Verkuil, Y.I. & Murray, N. 2012. IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian
intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea). Occasional Paper of
the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ii + 70 pp. (Sourced from

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