Tracking the rapid loss of tidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea

Authors

  • Nicholas J Murray,

    Corresponding author
    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
    2. CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Dutton Park, Australia
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  • Robert S Clemens,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
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  • Stuart R Phinn,

    1. Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
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  • Hugh P Possingham,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
    2. Imperial College London, Department of Life Sciences, Silwood Park, Ascot, UK
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  • Richard A Fuller

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
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Abstract

In the Yellow Sea region of East Asia, tidal wetlands are the frontline ecosystem protecting a coastal population of more than 60 million people from storms and sea-level rise. However, unprecedented coastal development has led to growing concern about the status of these ecosystems. We developed a remote-sensing method to assess change over ~4000 km of the Yellow Sea coastline and discovered extensive losses of the region's principal coastal ecosystem – tidal flats – associated with urban, industrial, and agricultural land reclamations. Our analysis revealed that 28% of tidal flats existing in the 1980s had disappeared by the late 2000s (1.2% annually). Moreover, reference to historical maps suggests that up to 65% of tidal flats were lost over the past five decades. With the region forecast to be a global hotspot of urban expansion, development of the Yellow Sea coastline should pursue a course that minimizes the loss of remaining coastal ecosystems.

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