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World Heritage Convention

Decision 43 COM 8B.3
Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I) (China)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/19/43.COM/8B and WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B2,
  2. Inscribes the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I), China, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (x);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief Synthesis

    The Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I) is situated in the largest intertidal wetland system in the world and one of the most biologically diverse. The property is an irreplaceable and indispensable hub for birds migrating along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which spans some 20 countries across two hemispheres from the Arctic to South-East Asia and Australasia. The global importance of the wider coastal area is evidenced by several Ramsar sites, some of which fully or partially overlap with components of the property. Thus, this property is a globally significant example of the shared natural heritage embodied in migratory birds.

    The two components of the property are both along the coast of the Yellow Sea: 1) YS1- the Jiangsu Dafeng National Nature Reserve, the southern section and Dongsha Experimental Zone of Jiangsu Yancheng National Nature Reserve and the Tiaozini area (totalling 173,110 ha including a buffer zone of 28,271); and 2) YS-2 the middle section of Jiangsu Yancheng National Nature Reserve (95,589 ha including a buffer zone of 51,785). The total area of the two components is 188,643 ha plus a buffer zone of 80,056 ha. The two components are about 30 kilometers apart, separated by the Dafeng Port and surrounding areas with dense human activity. 

    Human activity has transformed some of the tidal wetlands and there is need for measures to halt major threats and restore key migratory bird habitats.

    The intertidal wetlands of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf span three countries: China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. In each country, the wetlands support crucial habitats for birds migrating along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Further national and transnational serial nominations, and/or extensions will strengthen the Outstanding Universal Value of this property.

    Criterion (x): ‘Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase I)’ supports some 680 species of vertebrates, including an estimated 415 species of birds, 26 species of mammals, 9 species of amphibians, 14 species of reptiles, 216 species of fish, as well as 165 species of zoobenthos. The property’s tidal flats are of exceptional importance for the conservation of the world’s migratory birds, supporting internationally significant numbers of migratory bird species, including Critically Endangered, Endangered and other IUCN Red List species. The Phase I tidal flats are significant for more than 10% of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway populations and provide critical habitat for two of the world’s rarest migratory birds – the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, which depend on the tidal flats for their continued survival. The tidal flats also provide important migratory habitat for the Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, Oriental Stork, Red-crowned Crane and Great Knot; the Vulnerable Chinese Egret, Dalmatian Pelican, Swan Goose, Relict Gull and Saunders’s Gull; and several Near Threatened migratory bird species, including the Red Knot, Asian Dowitcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Reed Parrotbill, Curlew Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. Other migratory bird that utilise the property include the Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Grey Plover, Kentish plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin, Terek Sandpiper, Saunders’s Gull and Common Tern.


    The property underpins the viability of the central hub of East Asian-Australasian Flyway, one of the world’s most important flyways and arguably the most fragile. Large aggregations of birds depend on the coast as a stop-over, moulting, staging, wintering, foraging or breeding grounds. The two components of the property include clear boundaries for adequate protection of birds when they are on-site. The property comprises large tracts of mudflats, beaches and other key stopover habitats for migrating birds. The intertidal mudflats, marshes and shallow waters are exceptionally productive and provide spawning and nursery habitat for many fish and crustacean species. In particular, the intertidal mudflats attract a high diversity and enormous number of resident and migratory birds. The main body of the marine deposition plain and mudflat was formed before 1855, when the Yellow River changed its course. This intertidal mudflat is still mainly in the process of accumulation owing to marine hydrological processes, which have shaped the crucial habitat for migratory birds, including the threatened species listed above. Large rivers (including the Yellow River, Yangtze River, Yalu River, Liao River, Luan River, and Hai River) continuously discharge sediments into the Yellow Sea and Bohai Gulf, accumulating to form a series of different habitat types such as mudflats, beaches, and swamps, providing habitats for various migratory birds. These globally important habitats maintain the extraordinary bird biodiversity on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, as well as the high diversity of other species from phytoplankton to marine mammals.

    Protection and management requirements

    The two components are both state-owned and fully legally protected by law. “Ecological Red Lines”, designated by the Government of China, identify the natural coastline proposed for retention. Resource use and access in the coastal areas is severely restricted. YS-1 and YS-2 have the protection status of National Nature Reserves (with the exception of the Tiaozini area). Some fishing and harvesting rights are allocated to local resource users in shallow nearshore waters, including mudflats. All public facilities and infrastructure are publicly owned and the control of natural resources is publicly administered. National and provincial laws and regulations protecting the property include: the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Environmental Protection Law, the Forest Law, the Marine Environment Protection Law, the Regulations on Nature Reserves and the Regulations of Jiangsu Province on Wetland Protection and Tourism. The wetland parks and reserves of the Tiaozini area are protected by the provincial wetland conservation regulation of 2013 and will be consolidated into the Yancheng National Nature Reserve.

    Most tourism is physically separated from the protected areas and limited to visitor centres. A fenced area has been established for breeding of the Milu Deer (Elaphurus davidianus), a culturally important species, for which attempts are being made to re-establish in the wild.

    Future planning and management for each of the components of the property need to ensure that there are no unacceptable negative effects of development on biodiversity and threatened species, including any negative effects of tourism (which should be appropriately scaled and low impact), wind turbines, pollution (including noise pollution), land reclamation, and infrastructure development.

    The Outstanding Universal Value of the property will be enhanced by the State Party: (1) finalising its proposed serial nomination to include the additional 14 sites proposed for Phase II, and (2) working with other States Parties in the Flyway in relation to the potential for future transboundary serial nominations, and/or extensions. These actions have the potential for the habitat needs and patterns of use of migratory birds across the wider Yellow Sea region to be better reflected through World Heritage inscription.

  4. Underlines the global conservation significance of the East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAFF) and the critical importance of the Yellow Sea region habitat for the survival of many species of migratory shorebirds;
  5. Notes that the decision to inscribe the property is made on the understanding that the State Party is in agreement with the following requests of the Committee, which should be implemented in time for consideration at the 47th session of the Committee in 2023 in order to address fully the requirements of the Operational Guidelines:
    1. Submit a single Phase 2 nomination that includes all the additional components of the proposed serial listing as a whole, in order to reflect the full range of natural wealth and diversity of the ecoregion and to meet integrity requirements,
    2. Support the Phase 2 nomination by a comprehensive and detailed overview and analysis of priority conservation areas in the Yellow Sea and Bohai Gulf, including the fourteen additional areas identified in the Phase 1 nomination, fully taking into account ecosystem and habitat diversity of the coastal system, proposed boundaries, values (including species occurrence, abundance and conservation status), threats, integrity, protection and management,
    3. Confirm, with appropriate support from peer-reviewed literature, the specific presence of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value within the boundaries of the Phase 2 nomination and their relationship to the inscribed property, including the presence and size of populations of any endemic and threatened species, and of globally significant migratory bird species,
    4. Clearly demonstrate that the integrity of all natural attributes contributing to the stated Outstanding Universal Value can be conserved within each of the component parts of the series, and include a map indicating which areas of the nominated property are in a natural state, and which have been, or are being, restored, 

    5. Ensure that there are no unacceptable negative effects of development on the attributes of conservation significance in each of the components of the nominated property, including any negative effects of wind turbines, pollution (including noise pollution), land reclamation and infrastructure development, and
    6. Provide evidence of effective coordination of management of the entire serial property including planning for any increasing tourism demand, including the development of appropriately scaled and low impact tourism in the property;
  6. Notes with appreciation the confirmed commitment demonstrated by the State Party and local authorities to protecting the Tiaozini area of the Yellow Sea, as an integral part of the inscribed property;
  7. Encourages all related States Parties in the Flyway to cooperate with each other, in relation to the potential for future transboundary serial nominations, and/or extensions, that more fully reflect the habitat needs and patterns of use of migratory birds along the East Asian Australasian Flyway;
  8. Requests IUCN to closely cooperate with the State Party to ensure that the future nomination can satisfy the requirements provided in Paragraph 5 and the target in Paragraph 7.
Decision Code
43 COM 8B.3
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee (Baku, 2019)
Context of Decision