Endangered Migratory Birds on Collision Course with New Airport Construction in Philippines
A new airport under construction in a key wetland habitat just north of the Philippine capital is poised to impact dozens of migratory bird species, many of them already threatened, observers say.
The 2,500-hectare (6,200-acre) "aerotropolis" complex in Bulacan province, 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Manila, is part of a wider infrastructure development push that will reclaim nearly 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of wetland in Manila Bay.
But at least 12 currently threatened or near-threatened bird species would be affected by the airport project, according to the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), a national association of bird-watchers. This includes the black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor), a rare, large waterbird classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. A frequent visitor of mudflats, the spoonbill has an estimated global population of 2,250 individuals, according to BirdLife International.
"Out of the 50 million migratory birds that pass through the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, about 27% pass through the Philippines," Cristina Cinco of the WBCP said at a press conference at the end of January. "We're talking about 60 migratory species and we have 12 that need to be protected."
The figures come after the annual Asian Waterbird Census conducted from Jan. 11 to 19 this year, during which birders from the WBCP recorded 24 black-faced spoonbills at the location of the future airport — the first time in more than a century that the endangered species has been observed in Manila Bay. It's also the single biggest flock ever recorded for the species in the country, Cinco says.
Proposed Bulacan Aerotropolis
The 745.6 billion peso ($15 billion) Bulacan airport project by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the biggest company by revenue in the Philippines, is among the 22 reclamation projects planned for Manila Bay, the Philippine capital's center of navigation, trade and commerce. Approved under President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program, the airport is the country's most expensive infrastructure project to date. It's expected to help ease air traffic at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and accommodate 100 million passengers per year. But unlike other reclamation projects in the bay, which are at varying stages of approval, the aerotropolis has already been greenlit and had its ground-breaking on Jan. 15.
It's not just the spoonbills that are at risk from the airport project, Cinco said. Several endangered waterbird species in the same area face the same threat. Among these are the Far Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), the largest migratory shorebird, and the great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), both endangered under the IUCN, and the vulnerable Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes).
Near-threatened species such as the Asian dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus), bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata), red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis), red knot (Calidris canutus), and curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) have also been recorded lingering around the site of the airport project and thus face the same threats.
While estimated numbers of the Far Eastern curlew are dwindling worldwide, Cinco said WBCP members saw hundreds of these shorebirds in Bulacan, which has the largest share of coastal wetland in the whole stretch of Manila Bay. Given the wetland's ecological importance, Cinco said it should be recognized as a Ramsar site to protect the species within its domain.
An endangered Far Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) is among the migratory birds spotted in Bulacan's wetlands. ken / Flickr
Manila Bay, which straddles five provinces, is home to more than 200,000 waterbirds during the high season, 75% of them migratory, according to a report by Arne Jensen of Wetlands International. A quarter of the critical wetlands in Manila Bay fall within the jurisdiction of Bulacan.
Every year, more than 50 million waterbirds, including 32 threatened and 19 near-threatened species, travel through the Philippines by the East Asian Australasian Flyaway, one of the world's biggest migratory bird flight paths, according to data from the environment department. The Philippines has seven sites designated as wetlands of international importance, or Ramsar sites, which together host more than 80 species during the annual migration season.
In Bulacan, sunrises and sunsets draw in hundreds of thousands of birds, Cinco said — a good indicator of the site's environmental importance. With the reclamation project underway, she said, the birds face displacement. "Of course when you reclaim [land], they [birds] lose their habitats. Where will they go?" Cinco said. "They will relocate, yes, but what is their effect on the flyway?"
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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