Mark Barter, waterbird and wetland conservationist, will be missed

Mark Barter, waterbird and wetland conservationist, will be missed

24 November 2011

The world of waterbird and wetland conservation in East Asia has lost a pioneering figure and a role model with the passing away of Mark Barter on 21 November 2011. Mark always held a passion for shorebirds throughout his life, helping to guide the development of the “National Plan for Shorebird Conservation in Australia” (1987), before becoming the second Chairman of the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) from 1987 to 1997.

Mark Barter, Shorebird Working Group, and Doug Watkins, Shorebird Flyway Officer Wetlands International - Oceania, at the launchMark Barter in northern Bohai Wan (China) – waterbird surveys and training (14 May 2005)

On the regional level, Mark played an active role in the inception and development of the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy (1996) as well as the Asia-Pacific Shorebird Action Plan 1996-2001. During this time, he also served as the Chair of the Shorebird Working Group and a member of the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Committee.

You may say that Mark’s retirement from his work with a mining company in Australia gave him an opportunity to dedicate himself as a volunteer to shorebird conservation in East Asia. Working closely with Wetlands International, Mark organized a series of surveys along the Yellow Sea coast of China from 1996 to 2002, to identify key staging sites for these birds during their migration. These surveys not only gathered valuable scientific data but also, were great training opportunities for the many nature reserve staff and young Chinese students who formed part of the team to learn the skills of how to identify shorebirds and to carry out waterbird surveys. During these trips, Mark also gave many lectures at local schools to young students, to pass on his love for shorebirds and the importance of the conservation of the tidal flats that they depended upon.

The culmination of this work was the publication in 2002 of the “Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea” which today is still a key reference for the conservation of shorebirds and their tidal flat habitats around the Yellow Sea. Sadly, the threats facing these habitats are ongoing, and may now be even more severe due to the rapid economic development in the surrounding coastal countries.

Mark also made many other contributions to waterbird conservation in East Asia, including organizing a WWF waterbird survey of the Lower Yangtze River Floodplain from 2004-2005, which confirmed that the area was the most important area for non-breeding Anatidae in the whole of China, and documented large population declines and ranges contractions for many of the species.

Mark Barter made a significant contribution to our knowledge about the status of waterbirds in East Asia and the key sites that they used. He was also a ‘teacher’ for many of the people today who are continuing to work to conserve the unique Yellow Sea and Lower Yangtze River regions.

Mark, your dedication to conservation will be sorely missed.