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South-west China, particularly between the Himalayas and the Beibu Gulf, constitutes an important corridor for migratory raptors along the East-Asian continental flyway. However, a lack of ornithological assessment and the common practice of illegal hunting in this region emphasize the need for research and conservation actions. To investigate the ecology of migration and scale of persecution, we launched one of the first citizen-science projects in mainland China to record southward-migrating raptors and hunting gunshots from 2015 to 2019 on Guantouling, a well-known raptor site in South-west China. A total of 42,891 raptors were recorded, belonging to 30 diurnal raptor species. Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus, Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus and Amur Falcon Falco amurensis were the three most abundant species recorded. The bulk of Grey-faced Buzzard and Amur Falcon migrated through Guantouling from mid-October till early November, while Oriental Honey Buzzard migrated throughout October and early November. Precipitation slowed down migration significantly while increasing cloud cover was favoured by the three most abundant species. We found hunting mostly occurred in the afternoon, coinciding with an increasing number of Oriental Honey Buzzard, which may become a major victim of hunting. It is thus suggested to prioritize peak raptor migration period for law enforcement actions, especially on cloudy days and after passage of cold fronts, when Oriental Honey Buzzards and other species are likely to migrate. The annual counting scheme on Guantouling is not only an ecological survey, but also an effective way of engaging the public to counter raptor persecution.
The extent of intertidal flats in the Yellow Sea region has declined significantly in the past few decades, resulting in severe population declines in several waterbird species. The Yellow Sea region holds the primary stopover sites for many shorebirds during their migration to and from northern breeding grounds. However, the functional roles of these sites in shorebirds’ stopover ecology remain poorly understood. Through field surveys between July and November 2015, we investigated the stopover and moult schedules of migratory shorebirds along the southern Jiangsu coast, eastern China during their southbound migration, with a focus on the ‘Critically Endangered’ Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea and ‘Endangered’ Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer. Long-term count data indicate that both species regularly occur in globally important number in southern Jiangsu coast, constituting 16.67–49.34% and 64.0–80.67% of their global population estimates respectively, and it is highly likely that most adults undergo their primary moult during this southbound migration stopover. Our results show that Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank staged for an extended period of time (66 and 84 days, respectively) to complete their primary moult. On average, Spoon-billed Sandpipers and Nordmann’s Greenshanks started moulting primary feathers on 8 August ± 4.52 and 27 July ± 1.56 days respectively, and their moult durations were 72.58 ± 9.08 and 65.09 ± 2.40 days. In addition, some individuals of several other shorebird species including the ‘Endangered’ Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, ‘Near Threatened’ Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, ‘Near Threatened’ Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata and Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii also underwent primary moult. Our work highlights the importance of the southern Jiangsu region as the primary moulting ground for these species, reinforcing that conservation of shorebird habitat including both intertidal flats and supratidal roosting sites in this region is critical to safeguard the future of some highly threatened shorebird species.
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.
The Yellow Sea region is of high global importance for waterbird populations, but recent systematic bird count data enabling identification of the most important sites are relatively sparse for some areas. Surveys of waterbirds at three sites on the coast of southern Jiangsu Province, China, in 2014 and 2015 produced peak counts of international importance for 24 species, including seven globally threatened and six Near Threatened species. The area is of particular global importance for the ‘Critically Endangered’ Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (peak count across all three study sites: 62 in spring  and 225 in autumn  and ‘Endangered’ Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer (peak count across all three study sites: 210 in spring  and 1,110 in autumn ). The southern Jiangsu coast is therefore currently the most important migratory stopover area in the world, in both spring and autumn, for both species. Several serious and acute threats to waterbirds were recorded at these study sites. Paramount is the threat of large-scale land claim which would completely destroy intertidal mudflats of critical importance to waterbirds. Degradation of intertidal mudflat habitats through the spread of invasive Spartina, and mortality of waterbirds by entrapment in nets or deliberate poisoning are also real and present serious threats here. Collisions with, and displacement by, wind turbines and other structures, and industrial chemical pollution may represent additional potential threats. We recommend the rapid establishment of effective protected areas for waterbirds in the study area, maintaining large areas of open intertidal mudflat, and the urgent removal of all serious threats currently faced by waterbirds here.
Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica and Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris are long-distance migratory shorebirds with declining numbers in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. One of the most important staging sites for these two species during northward migration is Yalu Jiang coastal wetland in the north Yellow Sea. Historical counts have been limited to once a year and conducted at different periods; these yield inadequate data for population monitoring. We estimated the numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots and described their migration phenology during northward migration from 2010 to 2012 at the Yalu Jiang coastal wetland, using a combination of periodic area-wide counts over the migration period and a modelling approach that estimates passage times and total numbers of birds transiting. The mean arrival date for L. l. baueri godwits was 29 March and mean departure date was 8 May. Corresponding dates were 11 April and 15 May for L. l. menzbieri godwits and 7 April and 14 May for Great Knots. We estimated that an annual average of over 68,000 Bar-tailed Godwits and 44,000 Great Knots used the area on northward migration from 2010–2012. Our results indicate that the Yalu Jiang coastal wetland supports on average at least 42% of the flyway’s northward-migrating L. l. baueri godwits, 19% of L. l. menzbieri godwits, and 22% of the Great Knots. Comparisons with historical counts conducted during peak migration periods indicate a 13% decline in Bar-tailed Godwits since 2004 and an 18% decline in Great Knots since 1999. Our results confirm that the study area remains the most important northward migration staging site for Bar-tailed Godwits and indicate that it has become the most important northward migration staging site for Great Knots along the flyway.
Microscopic forms of karyotyping and cytogenetic analysis by means of G-banded chromosome analysis and rapid FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) on amniotic fluids or chorionic villus samples are at present regarded as the gold standard for prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal anomalies. Nevertheless, up to now the resolution of conventional chromosomal analysis was limited to approximately 4–5 Mb and not smaller than 2 Mb for FISH. Thus numerous common microdeletion syndromes are not detectable by conventional karyotyping. In addition, prenatal cells yield lower band resolution by conventional karyotyping than peripheral white blood cells making detection of subtle abnormalities even more difficult. With the advances in molecular-based techniques, a collaborative effort has led to the standardized method for detection of a restricted set of common chromosomal aneuploidies and microdeletion syndromes such as Down's syndrome, DiGeorge or Angelman syndrome either by rapid FISH and/or quantitative fluorescent PCR (QF-PCR). Even if the presence of particular phenotypic features of microdeletion or duplication syndromes may direct the use of syndrome-specific FISH tests in the postnatal period, syndrome-specific FISH analysis still has a very limited potential and application in the prenatal period due to the limitation in prenatal morphological or imaging diagnosis of many of the syndromes.
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