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Population trends, threats, and conservation of Waterbirds in China

Waterbirds are very important indicators in the ecosystem particularly wetlands. Due to climate change and human activities such as pollution, over-hunting and habitat loss about 23% globally are declining. Some have been listed as threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for about 19% worldwide. In view of this severe condition, waterbirds diversity has been rapidly decreasing and its conservation status received attention. In China there are 53.6 million hectares of wetlands making it the first among Asia and fourth in the world. There were different wetland types in China including swamps, rivers, lakes, coastal wetlands and estuaries. Conservation of waterbirds in China has been implemented establishing nature reserves, designating key habitat and captive breeding to increase population.

 

Population Trends of Waterbirds in China

According to Wetlands International there were 871 waterbird species in 32 families and 8 orders in the world. In China, 260 waterbird species has been identified that belongs to 21 families. 84 species exhibited a declining trend, 35 species remained stable while 16 species showed increasing trends. Threatened species includes Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, Least Concern and Data Deficient.  Moreover, the migratory and residents waterbirds suffered serious threats and a total of 38 species listed as threatened species. Also there were 6 species listed as Critically Endangered, 16 species Vulnerable, 16 species Endangered and 27 species as Near Threatened.

 

Threats to waterbirds include both direct and indirect human activities such as illegal hunting, disturbances, pollution and habitat loss. However, habitat loss is the most common threat because of large scale reclamation in both coastal and inland wetlands. According to the national surveys a decreased of 3.4 million hectares of wetlands wherein coastal losses more than inland wetlands. In recent years, continuous development and industrialization affects the natural habitats of waterbirds. In which foraging time have been reduced, vigilance behavior increased and recurrently being flushed away. As a consequence human disturbances forced the birds to abandon habitats and nest due to breeding failure.

 

Therefore, waterbirds in China might be in more serious situation than we thought that is why conservation must be implemented. Like restoration of degraded wetlands, public awareness, cracking down on illegal hunting and enforcement of Wildlife Protection Law. Additionally, restoration of highly threatened species through artificial intervention is needed. As well as promoting cooperation between international and regional information on conservation.

 

Source: Prepared by Joan Tura from Springer Nature BMC Avian Research

Published: 28 April 2018