China launches new science unit to support the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership

Back in December, with thanks to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, I participated in the Meeting of the Partners of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) on the island of Hainan, just off the southern coast of China.  The EAAFP is an informal partnership of governments, international organisations, NGOs and companies dedicated to celebrating and conserving the world’s largest Flyway, supporting tens of millions of migratory birds.

The Partnership’s secretariat, based in Incheon in South Korea, works hard to “protect migratory waterbirds, their habitat and the livelihoods of people dependent upon them”  by providing a flyway wide framework to promote dialogue, cooperation and collaboration.  One example of this work is the creation of “Task Forces” to work on single species and/or single habitats, for example on Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Baer’s Pochard and the Yellow Sea.

For me, it was fascinating to meet with many international experts from the Partner countries, including Australia, China, Japan, Korea (North and South) Mongolia, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand and the US, and to participate in some of the workshops to help progress conservation of the Flyway’s special species and places.  For one species close to my heart – Baer’s Pochard – it was heartening to hear from the Mayor of Hengshui about the outstanding work he, his colleagues and partners have been doing to protect and manage Hengshui Hu (Hengshui Lake), the most important known site for this critically endangered duck.

However, perhaps the most important outcome of the meeting was the official launch of a new “Science Unit” to underpin the work of the EAAFP.  The Center for East Asian-Australasian Flyway Studies (known as CEAAF) sits in Beijing Forestry University under the leadership of Professor LEI Guangchun.  It has been funded for an initial five years by two Chinese Foundations – the Mangrove Conservation Foundation and Qiaonv Foundation – and is officially part of the EAAFP Secretariat.

The official signing ceremony with the EAAFP Secretariat and Beijing Forestry University to establish the EAAFP Science Unit (CEAAF).

Under Professor LEI’s leadership, the CEAAF team includes some of China’s most talented young waterbird scientists – including JIA Yifei, LIU Yunzhu, LU Cai, WU Lan and ZENG Qing – and is already taking forward work to coordinate winter surveys of priority species such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Scaly-sided Merganser and Baer’s Pochard.

It’s more evidence of China stepping up to the plate in terms of the conservation of birds and their habitats, and I look forward to working with Professor LEI and his team to strengthen the work to protect and celebrate the world’s important Flyway.

Header photo: the CEAAF team with senior members of the EAAFP Secretariat.  From left to right: JIA Yifei, ZENG Qing, LU Cai, Lew Young (Chief Executive of EAAFP), Professor LEI Guangchun, Hyeseon Do (EAAFP Secretariat), WU Lan and LIU Yunzhu.

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