Yellow Sea intertidal wetlands are among the most threatened habitats on Earth. Already, we have lost 75% or more of our nation’s tidal-flats to “reclamation”. The loss of intertidal wetlands, both large and small, is driving declines in many shorebird and waterbird species. These rates of decline are among the highest of any ecological system on the planet.
While public awareness and concern is growing, decision-makers remain poorly advised. In January 2012, Mokpo City released a plan for a new centre for biodiversity conservation. The present proposal for this centre requires the infilling of intertidal wetland and the degradation of the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland: a nationally important wetland.
Birds Korea therefore here respectfully makes the following public appeal to Mokpo City, the Ministry of Environment, and to all stakeholders and decision-makers. This online appeal will be followed by further mailing and meetings:
Birds Korea Public Appeal
To whom it may concern,
Birds Korea is a legally-registered specialist conservation organisation, working for the conservation of birds and their habitats in Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Eco-region (1). We recognise that birds are beautiful and valuable in themselves; and in common with the Ramsar Convention and other leading conservation bodies, we also recognise their value as sensitive indicators of environmental health (2).
Through our members in Mokpo, our organisation has been conducting research on birds at the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland (3) since 2006. Our work at the wetland has included shorebird survey; education programs; symposia; and the development of an ecologically-based plan for the site as part of a project for the national government and UNDP/GEF Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem Project (4).
Data on birds supported by the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland, gathered by our members and by other specialists, confirm that the wetland is nationally important in its present condition. Several species of global conservation concern have been recorded at the wetland; substantial numbers of wetland birds breed at the wetland; and in April and May 2012 almost 100 observations have been made there of migratory shorebirds marked in Australia and Japan (5), proving the site’s value to migratory birds of the region. Due to the waterbirds it supports and its special ecological character (as an intertidal wetland within a major city) the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland qualifies for listing as a Ramsar Site. The wetland should also be conserved in line with the overarching principles outlined in draft Ramsar Resolution X1.11 (6), to be presented at the next Ramsar Convention conference (Romania, July 2012). If managed appropriately, the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland would have enormous potential for environmental education and ecotourism.
Since 2007, we have made these data on waterbirds at the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland publicly available through our websites, through symposia, at meetings with government officials and in press releases (7). In these ways, we continue to share our data freely with local people, decision-makers and the national and international conservation community.
These data make clear that waterbirds using the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland require undisturbed areas for feeding; undisturbed areas for roosting; and undisturbed areas for nesting. Maintenance of tidal flow to the site; improvements in water quality and habitat diversity; and a reduction in disturbance (through the construction of screens, hides, and walkways along the edge of the wetland) would improve the value of the site - both to biodiversity and to Mokpo City and citizens. These elements therefore form the core of the basic plan for the wetland which Birds Korea presented to Mokpo City in 2009 (8).
As a specialist conservation organisation, Birds Korea congratulates Mokpo City on their proposal to construct a new regional centre of the National Institute for Biological Resources (9). We agree that any new centre that aims to promote the conservation of biodiversity would benefit from being located near to one of the city’s most important assets: the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland.
Based on scientific data, however, the construction as presently proposed of such a regional centre on part of the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland itself will lead inevitably to an irreversible loss of wetland function. It will also lead to declines in waterbirds supported by the site. Easy to measure declines in migratory waterbirds using the site will indicate the loss of the wetland’s present ecological character, and result in a decline in its potential value for recreation, environmental education and ecotourism. We believe that such obvious declines in value will also sadly undermine the aims and the image of the proposed centre.
Respectfully, Birds Korea therefore urges Mokpo City and the National Institute for Biological Resources to consider an alternative location and/or design for the proposed centre. An alternative location, away from the wetland itself, and a design that emphasises sustainability, would help to conserve biodiversity. The proposed centre could then have the potential to become a globally-respected example of biodiversity conservation for the people of Mokpo city and the Honam region.
In appreciation of the long planning process ahead, Birds Korea welcomes further requests for information. We continue to offer our support to all in Mokpo City and the national Ministry of Environment who are working to conserve birds and their habitats in Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Ecoregion.
On behalf of Birds Korea
Nial Moores PhD
Director, Birds Korea
IUCN Species Survival Commission Member (Threatened Waterbirds)
National Coordinator, Birds Korea
Coordinator for Mokpo Region, Birds Korea
- See: http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds_Korea/BK-AB-Conservation-Mission.shtml
- Because waterbirds are widely-accepted as indicators of wetland health and character, several Ramsar criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance use waterbirds. Criteria 5 and 6 are specifically focused on waterbirds: http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-about-sites-criteria-for/main/ramsar/1-36-55%5E20740_4000_0__
- See: http://www.birdskorea.or.kr/Habitats/Wetlands/Mokpo/BK-HA-Mokpo-Namhang-Urban-Wetland.shtml
- See pages 1-9 and 57-68 in: UNDP/GEF 2010. Small Grants Programme 2008-2009: Final Reports. UNDP/GEF Yellow Sea Project, Ansan, Republic of Korea (112 pages). This report is accessible through the Small Grants section at: http://www.yslme.org
- See: http://www.birdskorea.org/Habitats/Wetlands/Mokpo/BK-HA-Mokpo-Flagrecords.shtml
- Ramsar Resolution X.27 (Changwon, 2010) “EMPHASIZES the value of Ramsar site designations in the vicinity of urban centres as a key contribution to safeguarding important ecosystems against inappropriate urban encroachment”; and “Overarching principles” for urban wetland planning, which include: “No further degradation or less of wetlands as a result of urban development or management” and “Wetlands should be considered as essential water management infrastructure” (Wetlands: Home and Management. Draft Resolution X1.11 (at: http://www.ramsar.org/pdf/cop11/dr/cop11-dr11-e-urban.pdf)
- See: http://www.birdskorea.org/Habitats/Wetlands/Mokpo/BK-HA-Mokpo.shtml
- See: http://www.birdskorea.or.kr/Habitats/Wetlands/Mokpo/BK-HA-Mokpo-Wetland-park-plan-Nov-2009.shtml
- See: http://www.bignews.co.kr/news/article.html?no=234760