Advancing Coastal Waterbird Conservation in China: Policy Progress and Challenges

A recent review published in the journal Avian Research by Zhijun Ma and colleagues highlights the progress and challenges in coastal waterbird conservation in China’s coastal wetlands. Coastal wetlands are important ecosystems that contribute to the carbon cycle, natural disaster mitigation, local livelihoods, and biodiversity support. Waterbirds, in particular, are indicative of wetland health and serve as flagship species for conservation efforts.

China’s coastal wetlands play a crucial role in the breeding, migration, and winter habitats of tens of millions of waterbirds. However, extensive land reclamation projects have led to a decline in waterbird populations. The Chinese government has made significant efforts and investments in coastal wetland conservation in recent years, but the effectiveness of these measures and any existing gaps remain unclear.

The study highlights the progress in national-level conservation legislation, regulations, and action plans, as well as improved policy effectiveness and stakeholder engagement. However, several pressing issues persist, particularly related to habitat conservation and management. These include the restoration of coastal wetlands, control of invasive species like Spartina alterniflora, management of environmental pollution, and enhancement of artificial habitat quality.

The authors emphasize the importance of safeguarding natural tidal wetlands and improving habitat quality, especially for coastal waterbirds that rely heavily on intertidal habitats. They recommend regular pollutant monitoring, eco-friendly economic models, and restrictions on agrochemicals and antibiotics in coastal areas to mitigate human activity impacts and address human-bird conflicts.

China’s central government has set an ambitious goal to eradicate invasive Spartina along the coast by 2022. Challenges in achieving this goal include tailoring methods to regional conditions, mitigating project impacts on the local environment and biodiversity, and preventing future Spartina re-invasion. Swift habitat restoration post-Spartina eradication is crucial to create suitable waterbird habitats.

The authors believe that there are opportunities for further improving waterbird conservation and coastal wetland protection in China through evidence-based decision-making and actions. Science-based approaches are needed to address the challenges and ensure the long-term conservation of coastal waterbirds and their habitats.


Zhijun Ma et al, Achievements, challenges, and recommendations for waterbird conservation in China’s coastal wetlands, Avian Research (2023).

KeAi Communications Co.