Biodiversity / Food / Water

June 7, 2007


WWF Japan Reports Sharp Decline in Migratory Shorebirds

Keywords: Ecosystems / Biodiversity Government University / Research institute 

Shorebirds such as sandpipers and plovers that migrate to Japanese tidal flats and wetlands have decreased sharply in number over the past 20 years, according to a research paper published by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Japan on World Wetland Day, February 2, 2007.

WWF compiled and analyzed data from surveys of migratory shorebirds conducted by both the Japanese Ministry of the Environment and wildlife conservation groups, including the Wild Bird Society of Japan. According to the paper, the average number of migratory shorebirds confirmed in Japan was about 96,000 during the spring migration and about 51,000 during the autumn migration according to surveys carried out between 1974 and 1985, but surveys carried out in 2000-2003 revealed that these numbers have dropped dramatically - by around 40 percent for spring and 50 percent for autumn. Decreases were significant among shorebird species that mainly utilize freshwater wetlands, such as Little Ringed Plover (declined 63%) and Black-tailed Godwit (declined 97%).

Shorebirds travel from their breeding grounds in Alaska or the Northern Eurasian Continent to winter in Australia or New Zealand. Japanese tidal flats and other wetlands are important stopover sites along these flyways. Sites capable of hosting these shorebirds are abundant in the organisms they feed on, making their arrival a key indicator of ecosystem health. In Japan, the number of migratory shorebirds has been decreasing as a result of land reclamation or other development that started in the postwar period and has destroyed more than 40 percent of the nation's tidal flats.

WWF Japan acts as the Japanese coordinator for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network ¡Êformerly the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network¡Ë, an international shorebird site conservation network launched in 1996. It plans to further promote action proposed by the network and encourage the involvement of local authorities that have jurisdiction over wetlands that are internationally important for shorebirds.

Posted: 2007/06/07 11:21:20 PM
Japanese version