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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.
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.
Russell Greenberg, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, USA,
Augusto Cardoni, Naturales Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata,
Bruno J. Ens, SOVON Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology, SOVON-Texel, Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands,
Xiaojing Gan, Massey University,
Juan Pablo Isacch, Naturales Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata,
Kees Koffijberg, SOVON Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology, Nijmegen, The Netherlands,
Richard Loyn, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Heidelberg, VIC, Australia
Salt and brackish coastal marshes (coastal salt marsh) are distributed thinly along the mid- to high-latitude coastlines of all the major continents except Antarctica. Where coastlines are protected and supplied with a source of sediment, grasses and shrubs colonize and stabilize the substrate, paving the way for further marsh accretion. Salt marshes form along lagoons protected by barrier islands, at the mouths of river deltas and along the edges of protected estuaries. Salt marshes are widely distributed, but account for a small amount of land cover. Although precise quantification of the current extent of salt marsh is lacking, an estimate of 60 000 km2 seems reasonable (Greenberg et al., 2006b). Salt marsh vegetation is replaced by mangrove forest between 32°N and 40°S or coexists with it at higher tidal levels (see Chapter 2). Whatever the exact amount of extant salt marsh, it is clear that it is a fraction of what existed even a century ago. The direct and indirect effects of human activity are particularly acute for salt marshes, as most of the human population lives on or near the coasts or within the watershed that feeds the estuaries where marsh grows (Rickey & Anderson, 2004).
Salt marshes show a great deal of similarity throughout the world in their simple vegetative structure punctuated by tidal sloughs and their low floristic diversity. In general, they are dominated by one to a few species of salt-tolerant grasses and shrubs (mostly of the Chenopodiaceae), often showing distinct zonation associated with the frequency of tidal inundation and salinity (Figure 7.1). However, marshes along the different continental shorelines are unique, showing differences in the dominant plant taxa, source of the colonizing fauna, specifics of the tidal regime, frequency of storm disturbance, and the tremendous variation in human activity and use. While similar to the eye, even within a region subtle differences in marsh structure give rise to distinct biotic assemblages (Figure 7.2).
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