Wetland destruction means migratory birds will starve

Though some stories in the article below is not exactly correct, it is very nice to know that there are people in Australia concerned about wetlands conservation in South Korea.


Wetland destruction means migratory birds will starve

Leigh Dayton, Science writer
The Australian  
December 03, 2009 12:00AM

MIGRATORY shorebirds face starvation from the planned destruction of their wetland "pit stops" in South Korea.

The world's population of great knots has already plummeted 20 per cent because of previous wetland destruction in South Korea, but last month the Environment Ministry approved the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. A day later, President Lee Myung-bak broke ground on the project, which includes 21 new dams, destruction of 87 old dams and dredging of almost 700km of rivers.

Birds such as the great knot, curlew sandpiper and tiny red-necked stint "winter" in coastal waters in Tasmania and southeastern Australia before flying to Siberia to breed in the northern summer.

Hobart-based shorebird ecologist Eric Woehler -- with Birds Tasmania and the University of Tasmania -- said migrating birds used South Korean wetlands to fuel up for the onward journey to Siberia.

"The birds have no alternative feeding areas. They feed on intertidal invertebrates like clams and shellfish that live in the mud, put on weight and then fly to the next staging area," said Dr Woehler.

"We've already seen the impact of the reclamation of the Sae Man Geum Wetland along South Korea's west coast.

"The reclamation has destroyed the food, so when the birds arrive they starve."

The Sae Man Geum Reclamation Project represents the world's largest tidal flat destruction, claims environmental group Friends of the Earth Korea.

The group estimated that, three years after it began in 2000, roughly 200,000 migrating birds failed to return to Australia.

And a tanker collision in January last year released 10,500 tonnes of crude oil off Sae Man Geum. "That was a double whammy for the birds," Dr Woehler said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the minister was aware of the new project but had no evidence it was driving the decline in waterbird populations. He said the minister would "seek advice" from Korea should evidence emerge.

According to FOEK, the new project will reclaim more than 1000sq km of critical coastal wetland for industry, roads and port developments.

Spokesperson Ma Yong-un said more than 100 river wetlands on the country's National Wetland Inventory would be affected, some linked to Korea's 11 Wetlands of International Importance, protected under the 1971 Ramsar convention.

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