Ecological Correlates of 20-Year Population Trends of Wintering Waterbirds in Deep Bay, South China

Yik-Hei SUNG, Chun-Chiu PANG, Tom Chung-hoi LI, Paulina Pui Yun WONG, Yat-Tung YU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Along the East Asian-Australasian flyway (EAAF), waterbirds are threatened by a wide range of human activities. Studies have shown that wintering populations of many species have declined in Australia and Japan; however, long term data along China’s coast are limited. In this study, we analyzed data collected from monthly bird surveys to quantify population trends of wintering waterbirds from 1998 to 2017 in the Deep Bay area, South China. Of the 42 species studied, 12 declined, while nine increased significantly. Phylogenetic comparative analysis revealed that population trends were negatively correlated to reliance on the Yellow Sea and body size. Further, waterbird species breeding in Southern Siberia declined more than those breeding in East Asia. These findings, coupled with a relatively high number of increasing species, support the continual preservation of wetlands in the Deep Bay area. This study provides another case study showing that data collected from wintering sites provide insights on the threats along migratory pathway and inform conservation actions. As such, we encourage population surveys in the EAAF to continue, particularly along the coast of China.
Original languageEnglish
Article number658084
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank G. J. Carey, former HKBWS coordinator of the waterbird monitoring program, for structuring this waterbird count from a simple-and-basic volunteer-based survey into a standardized, systematic monitoring program in mid-1990s. We are grateful to Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Hong Kong Government for their assistance, including issuing permits to enter the Mai Po Nature Reserve and approving the use of data of the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site Waterbird Monitoring Program. We would also like to thank Shenzhen Bird Watching Society and Guangdong Neilingding Futian National Nature Reserve for carrying out surveys at Shenzhen. We are also grateful to Ivan Tse and Helen Fong for assistance in the administrative work of this waterbird monitoring program. We would further like to thank Jonathan Fong for comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Last but not least, we would like to thank many members of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society who helped with bird surveys of this study, without whom this monitoring program could not have been done. Funding. This project was funded by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region as a part of the implementation of a Conservation Strategy and Management Plan for the Ramsar Site since 1998.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Sung, Pang, Li, Wong and Yu.


  • bird
  • coastal wetlands
  • conservation
  • East Asian-Australasian flyway
  • Ramsar site
  • shorebirds

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