CONNECTING CONSERVATION: EXPERIENCING THE COASTAL WETLANDS OF CHINA

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Our Bob Carey attends the inaugural China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network Conference

Written & Photographed by Bob Carey, Director of Strategic Partnerships

The China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network hosted its first workshop earlier in June in Chang Le, Fujian Province China. The workshop focused on the wetland ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide in the coastal provinces of China – a region which supports 50% of the national population and 60% of its economic activity. Workshops like these are critical as these areas of the coastal wetlands have decreased by 22% in the last decade. The workshop’s purpose was to launch a new learning network of scientists and conservation practitioners to inform wetland conservation efforts across China’s extensive coast.

As a Strategic Partnerships Director and through the Conservancy’s work in Puget Sound with Floodplains by Design and other coastal conservation projects, I was invited by The Paulson Institute to speak and contribute to the first workshop of the China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network. One of four invited international experts, I shared my expertise in restoring coastal habitats and using wetlands as natural infrastructure to lessen storm and flood risks to local communities here in Puget Sound.  And I drew from the experience the Conservancy has gained working in other coastal areas of the US, including the Mississippi River delta and Chesapeake Bay.  Given the thousands of acres of tidal marshes along the Chinese coast that have been impacted by invasive Spartina, I was also able to share the successful experiences the Conservancy has had in working with conservationists, agencies and shellfish growers to battle Spartina in Willapa Bay and Puget Sound.

The eastern China coast and Puget Sound have more in common than you might think. Both areas of part of critical flyways that support hundreds of thousands of migratory birds annually. And birds on both coasts have experienced significant declines. Chang Le, like Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and other cities in Puget Sound, is located along the coast and near the mouth of a river – in this case the Min Jiang. As in Puget Sound, coastal China is the hub of its population and its economy – people tend to cluster along waterbodies and waterways, putting pressure on coastal wetlands and ecosystems. As a result, wetlands in China (and in Puget Sound) have been lost or degraded due to diking, draining, filling, water pollution, and invasive species. The environmental similarities between Puget Sound and the Chinese coast provide a valuable opportunity to share lessons learned.

Habitat loss, water quality degradation and invasive species are all prime examples of how environmental issues defy borders – productive international cooperation is crucial as we work together to protect nature. It also provided a great opportunity to visit our global program and see the Conservancy’s China office! This was an amazing experience and I was honored to share expertise at the China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network’s workshop, and continue to develop these important international partnerships. 

Learn more about Floodplains by Design.