Waterbirds are very important indicators in the ecosystem particularly wetlands
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 the 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 have been identified that belong to 21 families. 84 species exhibited a declining trend, 35 species remained stable while 16 species showed increasing trends. Threatened species include 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. Habitat loss is the most common threat because of large scale reclamation in both coastal and inland wetlands. According to the national surveys, there was a decrease of 3.4 million hectares of wetlands. In recent years, continuous development and industrialization affect the natural habitats of waterbirds. Foraging time has been reduced. Human activities forced the birds to abandon habitats and nest due to breeding failure.
Therefore, waterbirds in China might be in a more serious situation than we thought. Thus, conservation must be implemented. Conservation efforts could include the restoration of degraded wetlands, increased public awareness, cracking down on illegal hunting, and enforcement of Wildlife Protection Law. Additionally, restoration of highly threatened species through artificial intervention may be useful. Cooperation between international and regional information on conservation has to be promoted.
Source: Prepared by Joan Tura from Springer Nature BMC Avian Research
Published: 28 April 2018
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