The Coast of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea of China

Date of Submission: 28/02/2017
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China
State, Province or Region:
Liaoning Province, Hebei Province, Jiangsu Province, Shandong Province
Ref.: 6189
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Name of Sites

Central Coordinates

(1) Dandong Yalu River Estuary National Nature Reserve, Liaoning

123°50′30″E, 39°49′01″N

(2) Changhai Provincial Nature Reserve for Rare Marine Life, Liaoning

122°32'56"E, 39°12'56"N

(3) Beidaihe-Geziwo/Xin River Estuary, Hebei

119°31'48"E, 39°53'4"N

(4) Qilihai in Beidaihe New District, Hebei

119°11′38″E, 39°31′38″N

(5) Luannan-Zuidong Coastal Wetland, Hebei

118°09′50″E, 39°08′27″N

(6) Caofeidian Wetland, Hebei

118°16′00″E, 39°02′20″N

(7) Nandagang Wetland in Cangzhou, Hebei

117°30′00″E, 38°30′00″N

(8) Huanghua Ancient Shell Ridges, Hebei

117°24'58"E, 38°27'34"N

(9) Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve, Shandong

119°02'35"E, 37°48'54"N

(10) Yancheng Wetland Rare Birds National Nature Reserve, Jiangsu

120°37'23"E, 33°32'46"N

(11) Lianyungang Salt Works, Jiangsu

119°14'21"E, 34°46'46"N

(12) Rudong-Tiezuisha Coast, Jiangsu

121°07'40"E, 32°42'14"N

(13) Dafeng Pere David's Deer National Nature Reserve, Jiangsu

120°48′57″E, 32°59′03″N

(14) Qidong North Branch of the Yangtze River Estuary Nature Reserve, Jiangsu          

121°39'21"E, 31°44'5"N



The coast of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea ranges from Yalu River Estuary on the north to Yangtze River Estuary on the south. Along the coastline distribute natural habitats such as deltas, sandbars, mudflats, rocky shores, islands, reed marshes and shell ridges, as well as cultural landscapes such as salt works, fish ponds and rice fields. Sediments and nutrients are continuously discharged from the Yellow River and the Yangtze River (they are among the world’s longest ten rivers) and other rivers including the Yalu River, the Liao River, the Luan River and the Hai River, accumulating to form the world’s largest continuous mudflat coast. The dynamic process of sediment accumulation and continental shelf subsidence still continues to shape the geological landscape and ecosystem on the Bohai Gulf-the Yellow Sea coast, making it one of the most diverse and fertile coasts in the world, a key habitat for the migratory birds on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.  Besides, habitats formed by thousands of years of human activities, including rice fields and salt works, also provide stopover sites for migratory birds in certain periods of the year.

Different parts of the nominated site are described below:

(1)  Dandong Yalu River Estuary National Nature Reserve, Liaoning:       

The Yalu River estuary, located at the east of Liaoning Province near the border of China and Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is the China’s northernmost coastal stopover site for water birds, including thousands of great knots (Calidris tenuirostris) and bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica). It is also identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(2) Changhai Provincial Nature Reserve for Rare Marine Life, Liaoning:

The reserve, located in the waters south of Changshan Islands, is inhabited by marine animals such as spotted seal (Phoca largha), common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) and Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes).

(3) Beidaihe-Geziwo/Xin River Estuary, Hebei:

The Geziwo Beach is an intertidal mudflat formed on the Xin River delta, a stopover site for numerous migratory birds. The Geziwo Beach is a world-famous bird watching destination. In addition to a large number of waders inhabiting the area throughout the year, during the migration seasons in spring and autumn, various rare birds migrate through the “Eagle Cape” on the Geziwo Beach, including numerous raptors, cranes (the endangered red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) and the critically endangered Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus)), the Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana) and the great bustard (Otis tarda). Almost all the rare and endangered birds migrating through the Yellow Sea coast could be observed here. It is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(4) Qilihai in Beidaihe New District, Hebei:

Qilihai is a lagoon located in the Golden Coast Nature Reserve, Beidaihe New District (formerly Changli). On the inland side of Qilihai, a large area of mudflat and waterbody has been reclaimed as shrimp/crab ponds. Qilihai is now mainly a habitat for gulls and waders, and an important wintering ground for relict gulls (Ichthyaetus relictus). It is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(5) Luannan-Zuidong Coastal Wetland, Hebei:

Zuidong Coastal Wetland is an intertidal mudflat, a foraging ground for numerous waders. During the migration season, Luannan Coastal Wetland is a stopover site for nearly half of the red knot (Calidris canutus) individuals on the flyway; it is also a stopover or wintering site of endangered or rare birds such as the Far Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) and the relict gull (Ichthyaetus relictus). Inside the dam is a large area of reed marshes, salt ponds and shrimp ponds, forming the main habitat for waterbirds at high tide.

(6) Caofeidian Wetland, Hebei:

The Caofeidian Wetland currently consists of large water reservoirs, reed marshes/wetland parks, salt ponds, shrimp/crab/fish ponds and rice fields. During the migration season, a large number of geese and ducks, cranes, waders, gulls, raptors and passerines pass by or stop over. In the last two years, numerous Oriental storks (Ciconia boyciana) migrate through and stop at the Caofeidian Wetland, the number of individuals peaking at over 2,000, accounting for over 80% of the world’s existing individuals. The critically endangered Baer’s pochards (Aythya baeri),  also stop over here. In the Caofeidian reed marshes live numerous individuals of a threatened species endemic to China, the reed parrotbill (Paradoxornis heudei). The Caofeidian rice field is one of the only remaining habitats of the Chinese bleak (Aphyocypris chinensis), a fish species endemic to North China.

(7) Nandagang Wetland in Cangzhou, Hebei:

The Nandagang Wetland in Cangzhou possesses a large area of reed marshes and intertidal mudflat. It is one of the most important stopover sites for the Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana). It is also an important potential habitat for endangered or rare birds such as cranes and the relict gull (Ichthyaetus relictus). It is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(8) Huanghua Ancient Shell Ridges, Hebei:

The ancient shell ridges located at the coast of Huanghua, Hebei Province are important products of the Bohai Gulf land formation during over 7,000 years. Its globally-rare development scale, time-span, and geological and paleoenvironmental relevance make the site important for the world’s Quaternary geology research. The site is typical, representative and rare among the marine natural heritages, and hence highly valuable in terms of conservation.

(9)Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve, Shandong:

The reserve is consisted of the estuary of the Yellow River and mudflats located at the north of Shandong province. The reserve is the most complete, most extensive and youngest wetland ecosystem of the warm-temperate belt in China. The Yellow River discharges a large number of sediment year by year, increasing the area of the mudflats by more than 1,300 hectares per year in average. The region is a key stopover site for Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus), hooded crane (Grus monacha), white-naped crane (Grus vipio), common crane (Grus grus), whooper swan (Cygnus Cygnus), tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus), waders, black stork (Ciconia nigra) on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, and provides an important wintering ground in North China for red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana), Baer's pochard (Aythya baeri), and great bustard (Otis tarda). In addition, the reserve provides a key breeding ground for hundreds of Oriental storks and thousands of Saunder's gulls. It is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(10) Yancheng Wetland Rare Birds National Nature Reserve, Jiangsu:

The reserve located on the middle coast of Jiangsu Province is one of the largest mudflat reserves in China. It inhabits 14 species of wild animals in the National Protected Class-I list, and 85species in the Class-II list. It supports over 500,000 resident or seasonally resident birds, including over a hundred species of geese, ducks, waders and cranes, and is the world’s largest wintering ground of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis). The reserve is a key transit point for the trans-hemispheric migration where nearly 3,000,000 migratory birds stop over, and is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(11) Lianyungang Salt Works, Jiangsu:

The site is located at the north of Jiangsu province. The vast salt works provide rich food resources for migratory waders. The nearby waters also serve as a key migration channel for marine life, where seabirds including divers, frigatebirds and auks are regularly recorded. It is identified by BirdLife as an IBA.

(12) Rudong-Tiezuisha Coast, Jiangsu:

This area is located on the south coast of Jiangsu Province. The Rudong mudflat is a key stopover site for the great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), the bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) and the endangered Nordmann's greenshank (Tringa guttifer), where more than half of the world’s population of spoon-billed sandpiper and Nordmann's greenshank stop over and moult every year. Tiezuisha is located offshore Rudong. The ocean dynamical structure of the Tiezuisha sandbanks is a precious example of marine geology rarely paralleled in the world. It also provides an important breeding ground for terns.

(13) Dafeng Pere David's Deer National Nature Reserve, Jiangsu:

The reserve is a typical coastal mudflat wetland, and is home to over 3,000 Pere David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus). In the reserve there are 93 species of birds protected by the Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the Protection of Migratory Birds and their Environment, including rare birds such as the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), the Saunders's gull (Larus saundersi) and the reed parrotbill (Paradoxornis heudei).

(14) Qidong North Branch of the Yangtze River Estuary Nature Reserve, Jiangsu:

The reserve is a coastal wetland formed by the accumulation of sediments discharged from the north branch of Yangtze River, including sandbanks, islands, floodplain, rice fields, channels and other water bodies. It is a highly sensitive region connecting the tropical, subtropical and north temperate zones. The reserve covers the major migration channel of the critically endangered species Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). As an IBA identified by BirdLife, the region also provides wintering ground for migratory birds such as the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), the Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus), the hooded crane (Grus monacha) and the Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The nominated property is constituted of both natural habitats and cultural landscapes distributed along the Bohai Gulf-Yellow Sea coast. Shaped by the sediment discharge of the rivers in eastern China and the settlement of the East Asian continental shelf, the unique area is highly valuable in terms of geomorphology and scenery. The rich natural habitats and the various cultural landscapes support an astonishing diversity of wildlife including numerous rare or threatened species, represented by water birds. The Bohai Gulf-Yellow Sea coast contains multiple Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified by BirdLife, especially providing breeding grounds, wintering grounds or stopover sites for migratory birds on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

Criterion (vii): The nominated sites contain the largest mudflat in the world and the most extensive alluvial plain delta in temperate zone, as well as diverse coastal landscapes including deltas, intertidal mudflats, reed marshes, seepweed marshes, salt-tolerant shrubs, rocky shores and beaches. The “mountain and sea” scenery constitutes the image of the edge of the world in traditional Chinese landscape aesthetics.

Criterion (viii): The coast of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea clearly represents geomorphology formed via two processes: sediment discharge of the rivers in eastern China and settlement of the East Asian continental shelf. The large-scale sea transgression and regression due to global climate change were summarized by ancient Chinese people as “canghai sangtian” (literally meaning “sea turns into fields”) - the phrase has been used to describe massive changes. Nowadays, great rivers, represented by the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, are still continuously discharging huge amounts of mud, creating new mudflats and shaping the coast. The massive geomorphological changes have also left traces such as the ancient shell ridges. In history, the frequent, drastic changes of the lower course of the Yellow River have influenced the geomorphology of the coast extending from Hebei to Jiangsu at the thousand-kilometer scale. Particularly, several centuries ago, the estuary of the Yellow River used to be on the Jiangsu coast, where the river discharge accumulated to form vast offshore sandbanks, a special type of geomorphology named “tiezuisha”.

Criterion (ix): Great rivers such as the Yellow River and the Yangtze River continuously discharge freshwater, sediments and nutrients into the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea. This critical ecological process influences fish migration, benthic fauna distribution and population dynamics in the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea, especially in the littoral zone. The flora and fauna vary across the habitat gradient from land to sea. Particularly, the waders have adopted different forms of bills in adaptation to feeding benthic animals at different depths on the mudflat. Thanks to the diversity of habitats and benthic species in the Bohai Gulf-Yellow Sea mudflats, the number of wader species on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway also ranks the first in the world.

Criterion (x): The Coast of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea of China is the most critical stopover site on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which, among all the main flyways, is used by the largest number of threatened species of migratory birds. In some threatened bird species, such as spoon-billed sand piper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus), Far Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana) and relict gull (Ichthyaetus relictus), the majority of the individuals choose to stop over along the Coast of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea during migration or wintering. The conservation value of the region is thus highly recognized around the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The nominated sites involve most important bird habitats along the long coastline from Yalu River estuary to Yangtze River estuary, covering all the coastal geomorphological types and the deltas of major rivers. The nominated sites are all located in National or Provincial Nature Reserves, or National Parks or Provincial Scenic Areas.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Wadden Sea

The only similar World Heritage site is the Wadden Sea in Denmark, Germany and Netherlands.

The Wadden Sea coast and seabed, constituted of sandy shoals, mudflats, tidal channels and salt marshes, is mostly accumulated through tidal effect, with little contribution of rivers. Contrastingly, the sediment transport process of great rivers dominates the evolution and dynamics of the coast of the Bohai Gulf and theYellow Sea in China. The contribution from the mother river of China, the Yellow River, is especially significant to the formation of mud flats from Hebei to Jiangsu. The habitats along the coast of the Bohai Gulf and theYellow Sea show a greater diversity, including deltas, sandbars, mudflats, rocky shores, islands, reed marshes and shell ridges. 

The Wadden Sea coast remains remarkably intact from human activities among European coastal areas, while the coastal areas the Yellow Sea/ Bohai Gulf in China have been under human influence for thousands of years. The cultural landscapes such as salt works have become a critical part of habitats for the migratory birds which have adapted to the changes.

The Wadden Sea is located at the key node of the Atlantic Flyway, while the Bohai Gulf-Yellow Sea coast in China is located at the key node of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which is used by more bird species. The latter flyway also used by the largest number of threatened bird species in the world.

Southwestern coast tidal flats of Korea

The tidal flats on the southwest coast of Korea, located on the east coast of the Yellow Sea, have been proposed for the world heritage tentative list.

Compared to the coast of the Bohai Gulf and theYellow Sea of China, the Korean coast lacks great rivers such as the Yellow River and the consequent vast continuous mudflats. Scattered mudflats, islands and bays surrounded by hills constitute another type of scenery on the Korean side.

The Bohai Gulf-Yellow Sea coast in China support more endangered species than the Korean side, thus meeting Criterion (x). Oriental storks, Siberian cranes and relict gulls are rarely found on the Korean coast.