For the scientific approach to the conservation of migratory waterbirds, survey methodology for monitoring and capacity building for the surveyors are essential factors to make the scientific information credible and integrated. On the 31st of October, a workshop was held in Seocheon, Republic of Korea, to discuss the monitoring strategy and protocols on migratory waterbirds in Ro Korea. It was hosted by Seocheon County, Eco-horizon Institute, and cooperated by Regional Marine Protected Area Centers Network of Korea, BirdLife International, and EAAFP Secretariat.
As a host for this workshop, Mr. Bak-rae Roh, Mayor of Seocheon County, delivered congratulatory remarks. He delivered a strong willingness to enhance the conservation of Seocheon wetlands, particularly in Yubu-do (EAAF101), as an important site for migratory waterbirds. Followed by is the opening remarks by Prof. Seung-soo Chun, Head of Eco-horizon Institute. As a geological researcher, he found that it is important to see the connection between the environmental components, and thus building up a cooperative monitoring system for sharing information is essential to step forward. Then the workshop started with a presentation from Mr. Doug Watkins, Chief Executive of the EAAFP Secretariat.
Mr. Watkins shared several overseas monitoring examples. Particularly, people in New Zealand and Australia are collecting data through citizen science programs, lead and supported collaboratively by local NGOs (such as Birdlife Australia) and their government. In his example, with a huge network for monitoring, Birdlife Australia is mobilizing over 1,400 volunteers to do the surveys at the 520 sites in the country. Based on the provided data, the Australian government recently made a new strategic framework, Shorebird 2020 more info. Additionally, they created a habitat digital mapping inventory open to the public. National land management plan of Australia referred to this data. However, back to other areas of the flyway in general, there are still not many national platforms to collect the data.
Dr. Ding Li Yong from Birdlife International introduced why the monitoring is necessary and provided a couple of case studies of protocols that can set up effective ecology monitoring. Monitoring is an important part of wetland management cycle. And thus it is important to do regular monitoring to examine solutions and find out improvement for management. To recognize and analyze the reasons for failure is crucial. These whole processes are regarded valuable to make a national conservation strategy. So far, International Black-faced Spoonbill Consensus, U.S. Shorebird Conservation Partnership, and AEWA Monitoring Partnership are considered effective cases of national /regional monitoring protocols. In conclusion, there are many good cases that ROK and other countries can reflect on, and there are some essential elements to achieve successful protocols to follow.
Dr. Young-Nam Kim, Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM) is currently performing the biannual National Marine Ecosystem Monitoring in the RoK. Since 2015, they implemented the ecosystem consensus and 800-1000 sites are the subjects. They are covering from microorganism to halophyte, benthic organism. In particular, seabirds are under monitoring annually, which shows the increase of total population from 131,592 individuals (70 species) in 2016 to 202,360 individuals (87 species) in 2018. All data including the seabirds is open to public on website.
Dr. Hansoo Lee, the Representative of KoECO, presented the current status of Seabird Monitoring in the RoK. Actually, after Saemangeum reclamation in Korea, the number of shorebirds declined massively. However, now many of the population moved to Chungcheng-do, and Jeolla-do tidal flats, where Yubu-do is. He also showed the results of satellitetracking of waterbirds , which was able to detect the flyway and breeding sites of some of the understudied species sucha as Storm Petrel.
Dr. Kisup Lee, the Chair of Korea Waterbird Network, based on his monitoring in Korea, he pointed out the limitation of current national monitoring. As they have been covering only a little tidal flat, there are still a lot of tidal flats excluded. Furthermore, rapid reclamation makes it hard to follow-up the change in the number of individuals. Other than these, the collaboration between MOF and MOEK, the lack of funding to monitoring, and not enough data of summer counts. He emphasized the necessity of monitoring.
Mr. Hongtae Jeon from Seocheon Bird Centre, he debriefed the overall monitoring data in Seocheon including Yubu-do. Particularly, he shared some results of monitoring of artificial floating roosts, which was a launched project by BirdLife International in April 2019. The most popular species are Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, and Bar-tailed Godwit. Now they have installed 3 artificial roosts, so they will keep monitoring it till 2024, two times in a month.
As the last speaker, Mr. Myeong Ho from Eco-horizon Institute suggested setting a few conditions to make the monitoring by citizen science active and sustainable. In order to make it credible and scientific, the experts need to discuss and unify the protocol and education shall be provided to the citizens. To achieve it, they created the ‘Getbol Keepers’ APP, which data from citizen science monitoring can be compiled and can have a function as a platform for providing credible data. Since it’s opened in April,2018, they have promoted in several bird-related events in Korea and to the regular monitoring surveyors. This September, they have tried to do a concensus by using this application in the Ro Korea. As a result, 8,9000 individuals (80 species of waterbirds) in around 20 sites were observed. In this way, they have a further plan to promote and utilize it. Ultimately, they are looking forward to ecological connecting it with other components of tidal flat.
For the last panel discussion session, the participants were discussing how to build up the credibility of monitoring data by NGOs and citizen science. Yet, it still needs a standardized protocol for monitoring itself. From this workshop, all participants have shown willingness to continue to discuss and develop about improving monitoring in Ro Korea.