Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I)

© IUCN/Sonali Ghosh
Country
China
Inscribed in
2019
Criterion
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
The property features an intertidal mudflat system considered to be the largest in the world. These mudflats, as well as marshes and shoals, are exceptionally productive and serve as growth areas for many species of fish and crustaceans. The intertidal areas of the Yellow Sea/Gulf of Bohai are of global importance for the gathering of many migratory bird species that use the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Large gatherings of birds, including some of the world's most endangered species, depend on the coastline as a stopover to moult, rest, winter or nest. © UNESCO
© IUCN/Sonali Ghosh
© IUCN/Sonali Ghosh

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
01 Dec 2020
Significant concern
There is no doubt the intertidal zones of the Yellow Sea are of global importance, especially for the congregation of many species of migratory birds that use the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. However, significant uncertainty remains on the efficacy of the protection and management measures as the habitat alterations are massive with several occurring outside the World Heritage site but having large-scale impacts on the long ranging intercontinental migratory species. Habitat loss due to large-scale land reclamation, i.e. conversion of coastal, shallow sea and intertidal areas to claim land for human use, in particular industrial projects, farming, aquaculture, industry, leisure and wind power development continue to be a cause of concern. While overall many aspects of protection and management are positive, at the time of inscription it was noted that given the importance of the site for migratory species, it's management should also go beyond the traditional boundaries and involve cross-sectoral, interregional and transboundary cooperation. Furthermore, the World Heritage Committee inscribed this site on the understanding that it will be further expanded in the future to increase its integrity and include the full range of areas supporting its Outstanding Universal Value.
 

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
There is no doubt the intertidal zones of the Yellow Sea are of global importance, especially for the congregation of many species of migratory birds that use the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. However, significant uncertainty remains on the efficacy of the protection and management measures as the habitat alternations are massive with several occurring outside the World Heritage site but having large-scale impacts on the long ranging intercontinental migratory species. Declining trends in population numbers of many species over the years are a cause of concern. One the components of the site is particularly important for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, of which only hundreds of individuals are left in the world, with the very survival of the species linked to the fate of the site.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
There is established evidence that the area that now constitutes the World Heritage site has been strongly affected, directly and indirectly, by past and ongoing development both on land and in the sea. Habitat loss due to large-scale land reclamation, i.e. conversion of coastal, shallow sea and intertidal areas to claim land for human use, in particular industrial projects, farming, aquaculture, industry, leisure and wind power development continue to be a cause of concern (IUCN, 2019). In addition, large ports and associated heavy marine traffic have altered the gulf's hydrodynamic conditions, directly affecting the marine environment (Yu et al., 2019). Recent policy shifts, advocacy, scientific evidence and international cooperation give rise to hope that the site’s global importance can be maintained (IUCN, 2019). However, much of the challenge must be understood and framed as a restoration effort. The dramatic transformation of the Chinese part of the coast of the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf over the last decades is likely to be among the most drastic examples of rapid coastal transformation anywhere in the world (IUCN, 2019).

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Mostly Effective
The components of this serial World Heritage site have the protection status of National Nature Reserves (with the exception of the Tiaozini area). In addition, all public facilities and infrastructure are publicly owned and the control of natural resources is similarly publicly administered. The World Heritage site is subject to a number of planning and management instruments at provincial and municipal levels, as well as at the level of individual protected areas that constitute this serial site, and at the time of inscription it was expected that a coordination unit will be established for the World Heritage site. While these elements of protection and management are positive, at the time of inscription it was noted that given the importance of the site for migratory species, it's management should also go beyond the traditional boundaries and involve cross-sectoral, interregional and transboundary cooperation.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
01 Dec 2020

Description of values

Single largest unit of an intertidal mudflat system that protects globally significant biological diversity

Criterion
(x)
The Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I) is considered to be the single largest unit of intertidal mudflat system in the world that protects globally significant biological diversity. Sediments and nutrients have been continuously discharged over centuries from the Yellow River and Yangtze River (two of the ten world longest rivers) and other rivers including Yalu River, Liao River, Luan River and Hai River, and form fertile mudflats, radial sand ridges and sandbanks as well as sand dunes, lagoons, rocky shores, and islands where threatened birds aggregate to breed (State Party of China, 2018). The main body of the marine deposition plain and mudflat was formed before 1855, when the Yellow River changed its course back to the north and since then it has been complex human-influenced hydrological processes that have helped form these unique intertidal mudflats.
These intertidal mudflats, as well as marshes and shoals, are exceptionally productive and provide spawning and nursery habitat for many species of crustaceans and fish, as well as important feeding grounds for the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). Large aggregations of birds depend on the coast as stop-over, moulting, staging, wintering, foraging and/or breeding grounds. The Phase I tidal flats offer critically important seasonal habitats for more than 10% of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway populations, and these remaining habitats are vital for the very survival of some of the world’s rarest migratory birds (World Heritage Committee, 2019).

Rich assemblage of fauna

Criterion
(x)
The World Heritage site features an important component of the intertidal mudflat system of the Yellow Sea. These mudflats are of exceptional importance for the conservation of the world’s migratory birds, supporting globally significant numbers, including rare and threatened species, as well as a high diversity of other species from phytoplankton to marine mammals (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
The serial property is an irreplaceable and indispensable hub for over 400 birds species, and critical for the over 50 million migratory birds moving along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. These large gatherings of birds, including some of the world's most endangered species, depend on the coastline as a stopover to moult, rest, winter and/or nest.
The serial site support some 680 species of vertebrates, including 415 species of birds, 26 species of mammals, 9 species of amphibians, 14 species of reptiles, 216 species of fish, as well as 165 species of zoobenthos (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Yellow Sea coastal wetlands, including tidal flats, also provide diverse ecosystem services - from natural protection against storm surges and rising sea-levels to sustaining fisheries.

Supports critically endangered bird species

Criterion
(x)
The East Asian-Australasian Flyway spans some 20 countries across two hemispheres from the Arctic to South-East Asia and Australasia. The Phase I tidal flats are significant for more than 10% of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway populations, including two of the world’s rarest migratory birds – the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
The World Heritage site supports seventeen species assessed by the IUCN Red List: one Critically Endangered (Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus); five Endangered (Black-faced Spoonbill, Platalea minor; Oriental Stork, Ciconia boyciana; Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis; Nordmann's Greenshank, Tringa guttifer; Great Knot, Calidris tenuirostris); five Vulnerable (Chinese Eegret, Egretta eulophotes; Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus; Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides; Relict Gull, Larus relictus, Saunder's Gull, Larus saundersi) and several Near Threatened (Red Knot, Calidris canutus; Asian Dowitcher, Limnodromus semipalmatus; Blacktailed Godwit, Limosa limosa; Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata; Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica; Reed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis heudei; Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea; Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultia; Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus; Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres) (IUCN, 2019).

Assessment information

High Threat
Habitat loss due to large-scale land reclamation, i.e. conversion of coastal, shallow sea and intertidal areas to claim land for human use, in particular industrial projects, farming, aquaculture, industry, leisure and wind power development continue to be a cause of concern (IUCN, 2019). In addition, large ports and associated heavy marine traffic have altered the gulf's hydrodynamic conditions, directly affecting the marine environment (Yu et al., 2019).
Upstream dams on the rivers feeding the mudflats have diminished the volume of sediments reaching the coast, posing a threat to the natural processes of these systems (IUCN, 2019). Discharge and accumulation of pollutants, such as microplastics, agrochemicals and heavy metals, is another serious threat affecting the coastal environment, marine biodiversity and food supply for migratory birds (Studds et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2018; Zhou et al., 2018; Meng et al., 2019). The considerable spread of the invasive Smooth Cord Grass (Spartina alterniflora) is further impacting the intertidal habitats (Peng et al., 2017).
Marine/ Freshwater Aquaculture
(Land reclamation )
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The biggest threat in the region is the loss to land reclamation of natural tidal flat areas that are important staging and feeding grounds of thousands of migratory waterbirds including some rare and endangered ones (Li et al., 2015). The area of tidal flats in the Yellow Sea had drastically reduced (in the range of 36% to 65% of tidal flat area) since the 1950s, first due to conversion for aquaculture ponds and residential land and then due to creation of seawalls to create new arable lands and prevent shoreline retreat through erosion and defend human coastal activities and property from storms and natural hazards (Studds et al., 2017; Choi et al., 2018; Yim et al., 2018; Morres et al., 2019; IUCN, 2019). The region is forecasted to experience up to 14% of expansion in urban development over the next 15 years, especially along the margins of yellow sea (Studds et al., 2017). Reclamation has already taken place in the Tiaozini mudflats with over 67.5 square kilometres of coastal waters already converted into land (Dasgupta, 2017).
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Water Pollution, Household Sewage/ Urban Waste Water, Industrial/ Military Effluents, Agricultural/ Forestry Effluents, Solid Waste, Air Pollution
(Water and sewage pollution )
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
The coast of Shandong province in east China is &gt;3000 km long corresponding with parts of the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea. There are seven cities along the coast with a population of &gt;34 million (Zhou et al., 2018a; Moores et al., 2019). Mariculture, tourism, transportation, oil production, mining, salt harvesting, sea fishing and port construction and reclamation have developed intensively in recent years (Zhou et al., 2018). Massive algal blooms, discharge of heavy metals and pesticides and the spread of alien invasive species have been observed in the past (Studds et al., 2017; Meng et al., 2019). Heavy metals in sediments might cause serious and widespread environmental problems due to their toxicity, persistence and non-biodegradable nature (Meng et al., 2019). These disturbances significantly reduce prey availability and foraging opportunities for the migratory birds (Studds et al., 2017). Microplastics (&lt; 5 mm) are considered to be emerging pollutants of global concern in coastal and marine environments (Zhou et al., 2018). Monitoring of the macrozoobenthic food for shorebirds along the yellow sea from 2011 to 2016 showed declines of over 99% in the densities of the bivalve Potamocorbula laevis, the major food here for birds such as Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots which has largely been attributed to change in hydrological conditions and sediment composition due to port construction, run-off of agrochemicals from the extensive shoreline sea cucumber farms, and parasitic infection. There is established evidence that maintaining the quality and food supply in protected staging sites is as important in shorebird conservation as is the safeguarding of staging sites from land claim (Zhang et al., 2018).
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Dams/ Water Management or Use, Other Ecosystem Modifications
(Sea ports and marine industry )
High Threat
Outside site
Jiangsu is one of the largest port cities along the east coast in China (Yu et al., 2019). The area is characterised by heavy marine traffic from and to major ports, creating some of the busiest sea routes in the world (IUCN, 2019). Following the
port construction and expansion in 2009 that has resulted in a 300,000-ton waterway, the gulf's hydrodynamic conditions have worsened, directly affecting the environment and the marine biodiversity in the surrounding sea areas (Yu et al., 2019).&nbsp;
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Invasive alien species )
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
Smooth Cord Grass Spartina alterniflora (native to Atlantic coast of North America) after its deliberate introduction in the past, has covered large areas of intertidal mudflat in China, particularly in Jiangsu Province (IUCN, 2019).
Tiaozini and Yangkou, where consistent roost sites have been found either on open unvegetated flat sediment, or around abandoned aquaculture ponds have seen a considerable spread of the invasive species in the past 20 years thereby threatening the availability of open mudflats during high tide (Peng et al., 2017). Studies have also indicated significant alteration in soil characteristics in areas with persistent growth of these species (Yang, 2020).
Dams/ Water Management or Use, Other Ecosystem Modifications
(Upstream dams development )
Data Deficient
Outside site
Upstream dams have changed the course of the rivers that drain into the yellow sea. The diminished volume of sediments reaching the coast, land reclamation (and erosion), ports and infrastructure for development projects, and artificial wetlands and channels found in the buffer zone are all indications of the large modification of the natural processes (IUCN, 2019).
Coastal shallows also represent major foraging areas for the Critically Endangered Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) in the Yangtze Estuary and upstream development has significantly impacted the survival of juvenile Chinese sturgeon residing in the estuary (Wang et al., 2018).
Renewable Energy
(Offshore wind farms)
Data Deficient
Outside site
The Jiangsu coastline is highly industrialized and many human-made structures are present, including a particularly high
density of over 250 large (&gt; 50 m tall) wind turbines. Powerlines and other industrial structures are frequent along this coast and may also represent additional hazards to waterbirds (Peng et al., 2017).
Data Deficient
Climate change induced habitat alteration and new potential expansion / opening up of newer areas for development continue to remain a threat. Although difficult to estimate, the potential impacts of hunting, overfishing and accidental bycatch of birds in fishing nets, as well as unsustainable fishing methods practiced outside the World Heritage site is also of considerable concern (Peng et al., 2017; Clark et al., 2018).
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration, Temperature changes, Storms/Flooding
(Altered weather patterns)
Data Deficient
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Migratory birds are significantly impacted by a complexity of factors at the wintering, stop over and breeding sites. Long term monitoring of Red Crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) indicates severe decline in its population in the year 2000 due to changed weather patterns, but since then it seem sto be on a path to recovery (Xu et al., 2019).
Commercial hunting, Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
(Hunting, overfishing and bycatch)
Data Deficient
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Marine fisheries in China account for nearly 20% of the global fish catch and has been of central importance to the economy and food security of the country (Frankstone, 2019). Many of them are unmonitored. Some of the critically endangered species of migratory water birds such as spoon-billed sandpiper are directly impacted by overfishing, deliberate hunting and accidental bycatch in fishing nets (Clark et al., 2018).
A greater threat to water birds also comes from fine mesh, multi-layer monofilament nylon ‘trammel’ fish nets; 1–1.5 m tall, set vertically between bamboo poles spaced 15–20 m apart, and in long lines (hundreds of metres). These nets are set at low tide on open mudflats, and are primarily designed to catch fish on the rising tide, before being emptied during the following low tide period. Such nets are a threat to birds moving across the mudflats around high tides, particularly at night (Peng et al., 2017). Deliberate use of poison baits, affecting both landbirds and some shorebirds have also been observed in recent past (Peng et al., 2017).
There is established evidence that the area that now constitutes the World Heritage site has been strongly affected, directly and indirectly, by past and ongoing development both on land and in the sea. Habitat loss due to large-scale land reclamation, i.e. conversion of coastal, shallow sea and intertidal areas to claim land for human use, in particular industrial projects, farming, aquaculture, industry, leisure and wind power development continue to be a cause of concern (IUCN, 2019). In addition, large ports and associated heavy marine traffic have altered the gulf's hydrodynamic conditions, directly affecting the marine environment (Yu et al., 2019). Recent policy shifts, advocacy, scientific evidence and international cooperation give rise to hope that the site’s global importance can be maintained (IUCN, 2019). However, much of the challenge must be understood and framed as a restoration effort. The dramatic transformation of the Chinese part of the coast of the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf over the last decades is likely to be among the most drastic examples of rapid coastal transformation anywhere in the world (IUCN, 2019).
Management system
Some Concern
The World Heritage site is subject to a number of planning and management instruments at provincial and municipal levels, as well as at the level of individual protected areas that constitute this serial site. These include 'Master Plan of Yancheng National Nature Reserve (2008-2020)'; 'Yancheng Wetland National Reserve Five Years Construction Management Plan in Jiangsu (2012-2017)'; and a 'Master Plan of Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve (2013-2022)'. On the ground management is undertaken by the two national nature reserves. It has been foreseen at the time of nomination that a coordination unit would be established (IUCN, 2019).

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Management effectiveness
Some Concern
No direct management effectiveness study has been carried out, however, the planning documents that support governance and management of the World Heritage site include 5-year economic and social development plans at municipal and provincial levels; a biodiversity conservation strategy; an integrated water resources plan; and several ecological red line protected plans at provincial level (IUCN, 2019); however, no evaluation of their implementation is availabel. At the time of inscription it was further noted that given the importance of the site for migratory species, it's management should also go beyond the traditional boundaries and involve cross-sectoral, interregional and transboundary cooperation (IUCN, 2019).
Boundaries
Mostly Effective
The two components of the World Heritage site include clear boundaries for adequate protection of birds when they are on-site. Buffer zones have been clearly demarcated on the coast side of the two component parts. The buffer zones are under the protection of Yancheng National Nature Reserve and Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve. These areas are managed according to the regulations of National Nature Reserves. However, buffer zones do not exist for the eastern (marine) side of either of the components (IUCN, 2019).

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Integration into regional and national planning systems
Mostly Effective
Some positive measures as part of the holistic vision of "ecological civilization", such as “Environmental Protection and Ecological Construction Planning of Jiangsu Province in 2006–2010” have reduced the impact of human activities in some of the areas along the Jiangsu coastal zone (Zhou et al., 2018).
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Relationships with local people
Mostly Effective
Traditional land use methods (such as subsistence salt-pans and aquaculture) have been found to be ecologically friendly toward utilization of inter tidal mudflat resources (Studds et al., 2017). Local communities have an important stake at protecting the site, however resource use and, in the coastal areas, access are severely restricted. Some fishing and harvesting rights are allocated to local resource users in shallow nearshore waters, including mudflats.
The GEF/ADB Management Effectiveness Evaluation Tracking Tool for China’s Wetland Protection System concluded that local communities residing near the components of the site identified a priority for increased consultation related to nature reserve management particularly involving crop damage and impacts on fisheries (geese on rice, herons, cormorants impacting fisheries etc.). It has been suggested that efforts should be directed to improving the engagement of local people in decision making to foster a sense of stewardship for the World Heritage site (IUCN, 2019).
Legal framework and enforcement
Mostly Effective
The components of the site are all state-owned and fully protected by law (Chan et al., 2019; Huang et al., 2019). Recent policy changes are supportive of coastal conservation viz “Ecological Red Lines” which the nomination dossier notes have been designated by the Government of China, constituting a major part in the 35% natural coastline that the government has proposed to retain (State Party of China, 2019). The components of the site have the protection status of National Nature Reserves (with the exception of the Tiaozini area). In addition, all public facilities and infrastructure are publicly owned and the control of natural resources is similarly publicly administered. Many national and provincial laws and regulations protect the site. These include the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Environmental Protection Law, the Forest Law, the Marine Environment Protection Law and the Regulations on Nature Reserves, Regulations of Jiangsu Province on Wetland Protection and Tourism, etc. (IUCN 2019).
Enforcement
Mostly Effective
Law enforcement is reported as effective on land and sea. The management plan indicates the positioning of 185 full-time staff (85 in Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve, and 100 in Jiangsu Yancheng National Nature Reserve, with an additional 15 staff in the Tiaozini wetland management office) in charge of patrol, law enforcement, research, monitoring, tourism and
education (IUCN, 2019). Monitoring stations are well equipped with boats, vehicles including SUV and motorcycles, unmanned aerial vehicles, telescopes, GPS, law enforcement recorders, radar stations etc.
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Data Deficient
The World Heritage Committee at the time of inscription made a number of requests, based on the understanding that a second phase of this serial World Heritage site would be developed and submitted by the State Party, which would ensure the inclusion of the full range of areas supporting the Outstanding Universal Value of the site and would increase its integrity (World Heritage Committee, 2019). As this is expexted to be submitted in 2022, it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of this decision.&nbsp;
Sustainable use
Data Deficient
Data deficient
Sustainable finance
Mostly Effective
As per the information provided in the nomination dossier, the financial investment by the authorities is increasing every year and has been found to be adequate (IUCN, 2019).
Staff training and development
Mostly Effective
There are regular training and capacity building initiatives for staff especially in collaboration with regional universities (State Party of China, 2018). Emphasis had largely been on the protection of the red-crowned crane and the Milu deer, but it is expected to also include capacity development plans around the Outstanding Universal Value of the site now that it has been inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Education and interpretation programs
Mostly Effective
The Chinese David’s Deer Park Scenic Spot of Dafeng David’s Deer National Nature Reserve and Red-crowned Crane Wetland Eco-Tourism Area of Yancheng Rare Birds National Nature Reserve have been staffed with 32 fulltime tour guides (State Party of China, 2018). However, it is unclear if any World Heritage site-specific education and interpretation programmes have already been prepared.
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Tourism and interpretation
Mostly Effective
Tourism is clearly separated from the actual protected areas and is limited to visitor centres and a fenced area for breeding of the Milu Deer (Elaphurus davidianus, EX), a culturally important species subject to efforts to eventually re-establish this species in the wild (Zhang et.al. 2019).
The Deer Park Scenic Spot of Dafeng David’s Deer National Nature Reserve and the Red-crowned Crane Wetland Eco-Tourism Area of Yanchneng Rare Birds National Nature Reserve have been staffed with 32 fulltime tour guides (State Party of China, 2018).
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Monitoring
Some Concern
The management plan for the site indicates the positioning of 185 full-time staff (85 in Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve, and 100 in Jiangsu Yancheng National Nature Reserve, with an additional 15 staff in the Tiaozini wetland management office) in charge of patrol, law enforcement, research, monitoring, tourism and education (IUCN, 2019). Monitoring stations are well equipped with boats, vehicles including SUV and motorcycles, unmanned aerial vehicles, telescopes, GPS, law enforcement recorders, radar stations etc.
Research
Mostly Effective
Scientific research is being carried out on various topics in collaboration with regional academic institutions such as Nanjing University and Fudan University (State Party of China, 2018).
The components of this serial World Heritage site have the protection status of National Nature Reserves (with the exception of the Tiaozini area). In addition, all public facilities and infrastructure are publicly owned and the control of natural resources is similarly publicly administered. The World Heritage site is subject to a number of planning and management instruments at provincial and municipal levels, as well as at the level of individual protected areas that constitute this serial site, and at the time of inscription it was expected that a coordination unit will be established for the World Heritage site. While these elements of protection and management are positive, at the time of inscription it was noted that given the importance of the site for migratory species, it's management should also go beyond the traditional boundaries and involve cross-sectoral, interregional and transboundary cooperation.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
Overall, this serial World Heritage site seems to be well protected due to a sustained legacy of protection and management in the last few decades. Tiaozini and adjoining intertidal mudflats have been subjected to drastic habitat alternations in the recent past and hence require close monitoring for the next few years to ascertain the return back of natural processes. Similarly, efforts to provide overall protection to Yellow Sea and Bohai Gulf, particularly for migratory species, with dimensions for transboundary and interregional cooperation are currently in its infancy and thus insufficient (IUCN, 2019).
Best practice examples
The use of geospatial technology combined with boats, vehicles including SUV and motorcycles, unmanned aerial vehicles, telescopes, GPS, law enforcement recorders, radar stations etc. for monitoring flagship species such as red-crowned cranes and milu deer can be considered as best practise towards effective protection measures in an otherwise inhospitable terrain.
World Heritage values

Single largest unit of an intertidal mudflat system that protects globally significant biological diversity

High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
The tidal mudflats of the World Heritage site are important staging and feeding grounds of thousands of migratory waterbirds including some rare and endangered ones (Li et al., 2015). The area of tidal flats in the Yellow Sea had been drastically reduced in the past 40 years (Studds et al., 2017; Yim et al., 2018). Habitat loss is mainly due to large-scale land reclamation, i.e. conversion of coastal, shallow sea and intertidal areas to claim land for human use, in particular industrial projects, farming, aquaculture, industry, leisure and wind power development. The IUCN-facilitated Working Group for the Conservation of the Yellow/West Sea Intertidal and Associated Coastal Wetlands estimates that two-thirds of intertidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea have been lost in the past 50 years (IUCN, 2019). Yim et al. (2018) have assessed that mudflat reclamation in the past 40 years in the Yellow Sea region has resulted in net loss of ecosystem service value of over 7.8 billion USD per year and an overall weakened carbon stock capacity of around 38 percent.
The complete transformation of all major rivers (sediment loads, water quality and quantity, flow regimes etc.) has largely altered the natural processes of the intertidal systems of the property (IUCN, 2019). The discharge of pesticides, microplastics and heavy metals, and their accumulation in the sediments of the mudflats, are also causing serious environmental problems including declines in zoobenthos and reduced food resources for migratory birds (Studds et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2018; Zhou et al., 2018; Meng et al., 2019).

Rich assemblage of fauna

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
China’s coastal wetlands—and in particular those in the Yellow Sea, which is at the midpoint of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF)—are crucial for birds that migrate between Siberia and Australia (Stokstad, 2018). Declining trends in population numbers over the years are a cause of concern as the Yellow Sea coast has been identified as a critical staging and feeding site for the migratory waterbirds.
Invasive alien species, including a cordgrass species, Spartina alterniflora, are now dominating large parts of the remaining marshes along the Yellow Sea coast, threatening the availability of open mudflats for migrating birds during high tide (Peng et al., 2017). Unsustainable fishing levels and methods, as well as over-harvesting of invertebrates has also resulted in major declines of some species. In addition, climate change is a concern along the coast that in many ways may affect both the ecoregion and the complex EAAF (IUCN, 2019).

Supports critically endangered bird species

Critical
Trend
Data Deficient
The Yellow Sea region is of high global importance for waterbird populations of 24 species, including seven Globally Threatened and six Near-Threatened species. The area is of particular global importance for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea and the Endangered Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer. The southern Jiangsu coast is therefore currently the most important migratory stopover area in the world (Li et al., 2015; Clark et al., 2018). The Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve component is important for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, with only hundreds of individuals left in the world, with the very survival of the species linked to the fate of the site, where almost the entire global population of the species roosts, feeds and molts in spring and autumn.
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Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
There is no doubt the intertidal zones of the Yellow Sea are of global importance, especially for the congregation of many species of migratory birds that use the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. However, significant uncertainty remains on the efficacy of the protection and management measures as the habitat alternations are massive with several occurring outside the World Heritage site but having large-scale impacts on the long ranging intercontinental migratory species. Declining trends in population numbers of many species over the years are a cause of concern. One the components of the site is particularly important for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, of which only hundreds of individuals are left in the world, with the very survival of the species linked to the fate of the site.

Additional information

Carbon sequestration,
Coastal protection
Aquatic ecosystems are known to contribute to human welfare in complex nonmarketed ways. The value of aquatic ecological services as estimated in the coastal area of Jiangsu Province, indicates a minimum value of aquatic ecological services in each of the habitations along the yellow sea coast to about ¥9.4 billion (Yao et al., 2019).
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Aquatic ecosystems are known to contribute to human welfare in complex nonmarketed ways. The value of aquatic ecological services as estimated in the coastal area of Jiangsu Province, indicates a minimum value of aquatic ecological services in each of the habitations along the yellow sea coast to about ¥9.4 billion (Yao et al., 2019).
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References

References
1
Chan, Y.C., Peng, H.B., Han, Y.X., Chung, S.S.W., Li, J., Zhang, L. and Piersma, T., 2019. Conserving unprotected important coastal habitats in the Yellow Sea: Shorebird occurrence, distribution and food resources at Lianyungang. Global Ecology and Conservation, 20, p.e00724.
2
Choi, C. Y., Jackson, M. V., Gallo‐Cajiao, E., Murray, N. J., Clemens, R. S., Gan, X., &amp; Fuller, R. A. (2018). Biodiversity and China's new great wall.&nbsp;Diversity and Distributions,&nbsp;24(2), 137-143.
3
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4
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