Thursday, February 5, 2009

Think Globally, Act Globally

I found an insightful article written by Mat Conway which detailed man's destructive impact on the natural world. In this instance, the tragedy of progress takes place in Korea. I'll try to condense Mat's work for the purposes of this blog. His now nearly two-year-old article can be found in it's entirety HERE.


Wetlands are recognized the world over as areas of extreme natural importance. They should be protected from development and destruction. One of the world's most important wetlands in Korea has now been lost. Tens of thousands of birds face starvation whilst two species face extinction. Why? People need more land.

Graphic Courtesy of BIRDS KOREA.


Seventeen years ago the South Korean government announced plans for the world's largest land reclamation project. The site they chose, Saemangeum, was an estuarine tidal flat on the Yellow Sea. It was a world-renown migrational feeding ground for some 400,000 birds flying their twice-yearly 24,000km trip between Asia, Alaska and Russia.

Photo Courtesy of Pacific Spirit Marine Institute.

Despite several legal efforts from many conservation groups around the world, the 33km sea wall at the edge of the wetland was closed last year. Sadly, the once vast wetlands are nothing more than parched earth with the all important shellfish beds and plants unable to survive. The primary food source for countless birds has been completely destroyed.


What's more, the South Korean government already has plans to reclaim one more of the estuaries around Saemangeum, ruining the environment for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. This area of wetland in particular is an important stop over point for the birds on their migratory path between New Zealand and the Arctic where they would feed after a continuous nine days of flying. But now the removal of the food source means a great deal will not be able to survive the long and strenuous journey.

John O'sullivan / Royal Society for the Protection of Birds via AP

Two birds are now nearly extinct: the SPOONBILLED SANDPIPER and the NORDMANN'S GREENSHANK. Both are believed to number less that 1000 in the wild, and if things continue on their present course this number will continue to drop drastically over time until they exist as nothing more than exhibits in a zoo and entries in a text book.

Photo Courtesy of JOHN & JEMI HOLMES


All isn't lost for the birds though, if two of the sluice gates in the sea wall are opened then enough water would be allowed in to rejuvenate a few thousand hectares of the wetland area, enough to save thousands upon thousands of birds and possibly prevent two species from becoming extinct.


Sadly, this action must take place now. If nothing is done to restore the wetland, it would likely allow the tragic extinction of two magnificent avian species. We need to not just be concerned about our surrounding habitats, but for habitats all over the the world. It is of extreme importance that we ensure the safety of other estuaries and areas of environmental importance around our little planet.

SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER Photo Courtesy of © Kjetil Schjolberg

To see some photos of this environmental mess, click HERE.

Good Birding,


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