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Meeting with the Ambassador Designate to Japan

14th July 2011: Andrew Geering (Chair, Queensland Wader Study Group) presented our work on migratory shorebirds to Bruce Miller, the Australian Ambassador Designate to Japan when he visited UQ today. Migratory birds link Australia with Japan, which is a major “refuelling site” for hundreds of thousands of these birds that stop to feed in Japanese coastal wetlands before continuing their epic journeys north or south. However, this spectacular flyway appears to be collapsing on our watch. Recent analysis by UQ scientists discovered that some species spending the non-breeding season in south-east Queensland have declined by up to 70% in the past 20 years (Wilson et al. in press). A new project led by UQ’s Dr Richard Fuller will try to understand why this decline has happened and what we can do to reverse it. The work is co-funded by a Linkage grant from the Australian Research Council, State and Federal environment departments, and the Queensland Wader Study Group.

Conserving animals that move across international borders can be extremely difficult, but Japan and Australia made a major step forward in 1974 by signing a bilateral agreement pledging “special protective measures for the preservation of migratory birds”, and “the formulation of joint research programs”. However, the dramatic declines recently discovered by UQ scientists points to an urgent need for action to remedy the situation. Estuaries in many countries around the East Asian-Australasian migratory flyway are under pressure from land reclamation projects as the region undergoes an economic boom. We are keen to work out how we can achieve economic growth without compromising biodiversity.

The flyway connects 23 countries across Asia (see map below).