Struggles ashore: Migration ecology of threatened shorebirds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway



Shorebirds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway are struggling because of the various threats they faced, notably habitat loss and deterioration in intertidal flats in East Asia. This thesis studies three species migrating between Northwest Australia and the breeding areas in the eastern Russian Arctic: The Great Knot, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, which depend on East Asian intertidal flats to fuel up during their migrations. To track the migration journeys, small satellite tags are attached onto the birds. We first describe migration routes and timing of the anadyrensis subspecies of the Bar-tailed Godwit which were unknown before this study. Then we describe how the Red Knot, previously thought to be a ‘long-jump’ migrant, in fact made several short stops during northward migration. To galvanize conservation actions in this flyway, we explore ways to apply satellite tracking of shorebirds in coastal conservation. Satellite tracking, unconstrained by logistics and accessibility issues related to ground surveying, uncovers many potentially important but unrecognized shorebird sites. In collaboration with hydraulic engineers, we also apply shorebird tracking data in ecological impact assessment of port construction and in ‘Building with Nature’ port design. Finally, we investigate what determines how shorebirds cope with habitat deterioration. Site fidelity, which might be negatively linked to the propensity to move, is lower in Great Knots than in Bar-tailed Godwits. Moreover, more explorative great knots responded quicker to the collapse in prey stock at their main staging site, arrived at the breeding ground earlier and bred more successfully.
Effectieve start/einddatum01/03/201901/09/2021