Hostile shores

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Science  09 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6257, pp. 150-152
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6257.150

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Ecologists are tracking with dismay how migratory bird populations in Asia are now crashing. The iconic spoon-billed sandpiper is on the brink of extinction, and its precarious hold on existence is a harbinger of the fate facing the 50 million birds of nearly 500 species traveling the East Asian-Australasian Flyway that links breeding sites in the Arctic with wintering grounds in Southeast Asia and the Southern Hemisphere. Scientists believe habitat loss along the route is one of the primary drivers of population decline. Hopes for reversing the trend center on the Yellow Sea, a central way station for the migrants that has lost between 50% and 80% of its wetlands to coastal development in 5 decades. But saving the birds hinges on preserving the few remaining healthy mudflats along the Chinese coast.

  • * in Rudong, China; photography by Gerrit Vyn