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Bird migration ecology

In one of the most spectacular wildlife migrations on the planet, millions of shorebirds live their entire lives in summer by making a 20,000 km round trip from their Arctic breeding grounds to wetlands in Australia and then migrating north again each year.

Pacific Golden Plover

Pacific Golden Plover

This amazing wildlife spectacle is under threat. Some species have declined enormously over the past couple of decades, with millions of birds being lost. What has caused these declines is not clear, and conserving migratory birds is extremely hard because they fly across international borders.

One explanation for the declines is the loss of “refuelling” sites in estuaries around the Yellow Sea, where mudflats are rapidly disappearing because of land reclamation projects as the region undergoes an economic boom. One of the biggest projects is at Saemangeum, South Korea, where construction of a 33km seawall has converted 40,000 hectares of prime estuarine habitat into a tideless lake that is gradually being filled in.

We are currently documenting patterns of habitat loss across the whole flyway (Nick Murray), investigating the impacts of climate change on migratory species (Takuya Iwamura), and understanding the movements of Australia’s terrestrial birds and how these are responding to environmental change (Claire Runge). To receive a regular monthly email updating you with progress on the shorebird work, please email Rob Clemens.