Touchdown in Shanghai and just a few hours in China is enough to grasp the enormity of the environmental problems in this country. The rate of concrete pouring and coastal land reclamation is astounding. We are based at Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve at the mouth of the Yangtze River for two weeks. This is a major staging post for waders, with good feeding mud flats being lost at an alarming rate. There can be little doubt that coastal wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian flyway are facing an ecological crisis.
We are in China to work on the design of a major wetland creation project. There is a plan is to build a huge new 25 km seawall, enclosing 2,500 ha of Spartina dominated saltmarsh around the nature reserve. The wall is being built to enable the introduced Spartina that has spread across the mudflats to be removed and the opportunity exists to work with the excellent reserve staff here to create the best possible habitat for key species after removal.
Chongming Dongtan is located at the eastern part of the Chongming Island, which is a low lying alluvial island. Due to the sedimentation of mud and sand from the Yangtze River, Chongming Dongtan consists of large areas of fresh water/salty water marshes, tidal creeks and inter-tidal mudflat, where there are farmland, fish and crab ponds and reed beds. It is an important staging and wintering site for migratory birds. Key species here are Hooded Cranes, Reed Parrotbill, Marsh Grassbird, Black-faced Spoonbill, Saunders Gull and the waders of the East Asian-Australasian flyway. The highlights of a quick look around on day one were a large flock of Reed Parrotbills and evening meal of shrimp, duck, mushroom and noodle. The waitress gave me a dirty look while others laughed; apparently I had greeted her with “hello mother”.