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Land Reclamation


A Bird's Eye View of Land Reclamation

Crucial Wetlands Support Millions of Birds During Migration

Land reclamation is a formidable challenge for migrating birds because it promotes human development in the areas birds needs the most. It is the process of changing unusable wetland into areas useful for human needs, by draining and filling them in to build cities, farms, roads and airports.

For example, Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest and most populated cities, and is built mainly on reclaimed coastal wetlands. In many densely populated areas, reclaiming land is a way of gaining more space in areas where undeveloped land is scarce.


Yet these wetlands are biologically extremely productive habitats, which often support millions of birds a year where they feed intensively to build up stores of fat and protein to fuel the next leg of their flight. Despite the relatively small size of these areas, the loss of these important habitats can have dramatic affects on many migrating bird species.

Each year, many species of migrating birds spanning entire regions can stop at the same major wetlands. They must depend on very specific areas that they use each year they know to be safe and are productive enough to provide food and water after long flights.

For many shore birds, migration from Australia to breeding grounds in the far northern hemisphere is carried out in just two flights. From the Southern Hemisphere in the spring they fly directly to feeding areas several thousand kilometres away, such as the Saemanguem estuary in East Asia, where shorebirds refuel before another direct flight to breeding grounds which can be north of the Arctic Circle.


Land Reclamation and its Challenging Threat to Migratiory Birds 

The Loss of Small Areas of Wetland Can Affect Many Species

The tremendous amount of biological activity of these areas results in their ability to sustain a staggering number of migrating birds. Each year millions and millions of birds depend on wetlands along the entire length of their migrations. From a bird’s eye view, these wetlands must seem like islands of habitat that they must seek out to avoid running out of energy in a vast sea of areas that cannot support them.

 The loss of even a few wetlands can lead to the decline of many species with far reaching effects. One crucial wetland can affect an entire continental migration corridor, known as a flyway, and the ability of huge proportions of birds in an entire hemisphere from travelling along migration routes.

For example, the ongoing reclamation of the Saemanguem estuary in South Korea means that three million birds that use it each year must find other areas to rest and refuel during migration. 

Nearly 50 per cent of the Yellow Sea’s tidalflats have been destroyed due to land reclamation. Conservationists fear the loss of Saemanguem and many others in the Yellow Sea region may have far reaching negative effects along the entire Pacific Asian Flyway that spans from the Arctic to southern Australia.



Camaign to Save Yellow Sea Wetlands from Reclamation

See how migratory birds struggle with land reclamation in Korea 




A Bird's Eye View of Land Reclamation

See "A Bird's Eye View" of the famous Saemangeum Estuary land reclamation example of the on the WMBD Event Google Map: Saemangeum Estuary Land Reclamation, Land Reclamation in Hong Kong, The Yellow Sea Region




Register a WMBD Event

Register a WMBD event to raise awareness about the effects of land reclamation on migratory birds in your area and receive WMBD posters and stickers to support your event.