The Plight of the Asian Dowitcher

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Although not one of the most famous wader species, the plight of the Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus is one which deserves more attention. Almost the entire global population of this species are supported by the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, with the most important waterbird site being Lianyungang, in Jiangsu Province, China. This acts as a vital stopover or over-winter site for at least 29 species of migratory waterbirds. However, this area of China, along with the over 200,000 waterbirds who migrate there, has no protection against coastal wetlands redevelopment into beaches and industry. This destruction of habitat is creating a bottleneck during the Asian Dowitcher’s annual migration, making survival even more competitive and difficult than before.


Conservationists are calling for the IUCN and UNESCO to consider listing the site as a critical part of the Yellow Sea (West Sea) World Heritage Sites. This would be along with the already listed two sites in China and four in South Korea. They already have general UNESCO protection for “Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase II)” in 2019, but believe a higher significance should be attributed to the Lianyungang area. However, it seems that the local Chinese government’s economical concerns are the barrier to protecting this and other wader bird species. Conservationists, however, are passionate that saving the natural environment in Jiangsu Province will actually improve the economy through tourism, and will have the added bonus of saving the Near Threatened Asian Dowitcher.


“Omitting Lianyungang from protection will greatly harm the hundreds of thousands of migratory waterbirds that depend on its coastal wetlands during non-breeding seasons, including the entire global population of Asian Dowitcher, the only and endemic dowitcher species of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, undermining the effectiveness and representativeness of the entire Yellow Sea (West Sea) World Heritage network.” – Tong Mu

Please see the attachments for further details on this article.

Yang et al 2021 Coastal wetlands in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China: probably the most important site globally for the Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus)

Chan et al 2019 Conserving unprotected important coastal habitats in the Yellow Sea: Shorebird occurrence, distribution and food resources at Lianyungang

Mu et al 2022 Gaps in coastal wetlands World Heritage list