Shorebirds vs Shanghai: The challenge of ecological civilization in a fast-changing region

Authors: Mary Ann Cunningham*, Vassar College, Eilif Ronning, Department of Earth Science and Geography, Vassar College, Alexandra Reilinger, Biology Department, Vassar College, Adele Birkenes, Department of Earth Science and Geography, Vassar College, Yu Zhou, Department of Earth Science and Geography, Vassar College
Topics: Environment, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Biogeography
Keywords: migratory shorebirds, wetland habitat, estuary habitat, China, coastal development
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


Chongming Island, at the mouth of the Yangtze River, has been a centerpiece in China’s emerging commitment to developing an “ecological civilization.” This coast is simultaneously one of the world’s fastest-industrializing zones and one of the most critical regions of mudflats that support global populations of shorebirds on the East Asian-Australasian flyway. In declaring a goal of ecological civilization, China is engaging one of most difficult and most urgent questions we face--how to negotiate contradictory ambitions of economic growth and ecosystem stability on the ground. We examined land use change and habitat availability on Chongming to explore the challenge in this focal location. The island’s land use is changing rapidly; it is growing with alluvial sedimentation, but the growth rate has declined with installation of more than 50,000 dams throughout the watershed. At the same time, wetland reclamation and conversion continue apace, in the face of rising demand for land. We used satellite images from 2000 to 2016 to examine how the wetland reclamation has progressed since the island’s designation as a “world class ecological island” and the implementation of new wetland conservation policies. We focus on the island’s eastern end, Dongtan (Eastern Beach), one of the key wetland areas. Despite sedimentation and expansion, we found that net change in wetland and mudflat area from 2000 to 2016 was -13 percent. Monitoring of this sort is critical for understanding the opportunities and challenges of environmental planning in a rapidly developing region.

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