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A promising new initiative for migratory waterbirds in China

Published on:
  • Asian Waterbird Census
  • International Waterbird Census
  • Species
  • Wetland values, status and trends

A promising new initiative for migratory waterbirds in China: Inception workshop on Strengthening the protected area network for migratory bird conservation along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway in China

An impressive inception workshop to formally launch the project “Strengthening the Protected Area Network for Migratory Bird Conservation Along the East Asian—Australasian Flyway (EAAF) in China” was organized on 11 May 2021 in Dongying City, Shandong Province, China. The project offers new hope for millions of migratory waterbirds of the EAAF that depend on the Yellow Sea for their annual migration. This includes threatened and near-threatened species like Red-crowned Crane, Siberian Crane, Dalmatian Pelican, Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Saunders’s Gull and Relict Gull, which are dependent on productive intertidal mudflats and coastal habitats. It also aims to protect a site of importance for the threatened Black-necked Crane.

Around 50 representatives from National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provincial governments of Shandong, Liaoning, Shanghai and Yunnan, and NGOs, including Wetlands International, participated in the meeting.

This major UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) financed project, of which Wetlands International is one of the project partners and co-funders, is one of the largest standalone national projects in the biodiversity area with a total GEF allocation of US $10 million.

Copyright: UNDP GEF Project Management Office, China


The project aims to secure conservation of endangered migratory waterbirds by establishing a robust, resilient and well-managed network of internationally important and protected wetlands in China that will directly contribute towards implementation of the government’s Wetland Protection and Restoration System Plan. Four pilot sites, Liao River Delta, Yellow River Delta, Chongming Dongtan and Dashanbao, have been selected as the project demonstration sites. These sites are designated as Ramsar Sites and are recognised as Flyway Network Sites of the EAAF Partnership.

This project is composed of three elements: 1. Flyway Protected Areas network planning, expansion, financial sustainability and mainstreaming; 2. Site- based demonstrations of adaptive habitat management and rehabilitation for migratory waterbirds conservation, and 3. Knowledge management, awareness and gender mainstreaming. The project will contribute to expansion of about 200,000 hectares of protected area in China and strengthen local capacity to manage around 300,000 hectares of internationally important wetlands through financial and technical support. The project will also support the restoration of 60,000 hectares of important waterbird habitat, that will directly and indirectly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and help China to fulfill its commitment to turn-around the carbon dioxide emissions curve before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was established at this meeting to coordinate and provide strategic guidance for implementation of the project and held its first meeting. Recommendations were made for the project’s first two-year work plan. Wetlands International participated in the first PSC meeting as an observer, along with other NGO partners including EAAF Partnership Secretariat, Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE), International Crane Foundation and World Wide Fund for Nature.

Dr Zhang Xiaohong represented Wetlands International and made a presentation on our Flyway Bottleneck Yellow Sea (FBYS) project that neatly dovetails into the new GEF project. This project, under the lead of Wetlands International is being implemented at Liaohe National Nature Reserve and Rudong along the Yellow Sea with NFGA as the national Implementation Partner, local management agencies and partners. The FBYS project is supported by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

Copyright: UNDP GEF Project Management Office, China


A field excursion to the Yellow River Delta was made on the following day for all participants to have a shared understanding of the wetland restoration, spartina control and waterbird species conservation efforts being implemented by the Yellow River Delta management authority. The Yellow River Delta supports 367 species of birds, and is an important breeding, stopover site and non-breeding area for migratory waterbirds along the EAAF.