Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 1617-1632.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1803-y

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Priority sites and conservation gaps of wintering waterbirds in the Yangtze River floodplain

XIA Shaoxia1(), YU Xiubo1,3, LEI Jinyu2, HEARN Richard4, SMITH Bena4, LEI Gang2, XIE Ping5   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Living Yangtze Program, World Wide Fund for Nature China, Wuhan 430060, China
    3. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, United Kingdom
    5. State Key Laboratory for Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology of China, Institute of Hydrobiology, CAS, Wuhan 430072, China
  • Received:2019-08-05 Accepted:2020-04-17 Online:2020-10-25 Published:2020-10-27
  • About author:Xia Shaoxia (1983–), Associate Professor, specialized in biodiversity assessment and habitat mapping. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No(XDA23040203);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41701212);STS Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No(KFJ-SW-YW026)


The Yangtze River floodplain is critical for migratory waterbirds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). Greater awareness of its global importance is urgently needed to ensure waterbird populations remain in favourable conservation status, as well as the enhancement of wider wetland biodiversity within this region. The designation of protected wetland areas and building a green ecological corridor in the Yangtze floodplain is now becoming a critical issue of interest to the Chinese government. Priority sites in this area were identified based on the criteria used to identify sites that qualify as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) by using multi-source data. The results show that 140 of the sites surveyed are priority sites. The Importance Index (I) for the whole floodplain decreased slightly from 2001-2005 and an unbalanced distribution pattern is evident with Jiangxi and Hunan provinces significantly higher than the other provinces in the floodplain. Although more than 60% of the priority sites are currently located outside protected areas, the average Conservation Effectiveness Index (C) of the whole floodplain is 75.6%, which suggests the coverage of protected areas for most wintering waterbird population is reasonable. Conservation of the Yangtze River floodplain needs to be further strengthened due to declining waterbird abundances and the mismatch between the distribution of protected areas and their importance for wintering waterbirds. A comprehensive system for priority site identification and protection and scientific review is needed. Multi-sourced data from regular, systematic and coordinated monitoring of waterbird distribution and abundance across the EAAF, as well as national scale citizen science programmes are also critically important.

Key words: wintering waterbirds, Yangtze River floodplain, priority site, feeding guild