Building for nature: Preserving threatened bird habitat in port design

Jos R.M. Muller, Ying Chi Chan, Theunis Piersma, Yong Ping Chen, Stefan G.J. Aarninkhof, Chris J. Hassell, Jian Feng Tao, Zheng Gong, Zheng Bing Wang, Dirk S. van Maren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


The fast economic development of the People's Republic of China has created an increasing demand for usable land, resulting in large-scale land reclamations along the coastal zone. One of these regions is Tongzhou Bay (Jiangsu coast), a region characterized by large intertidal mudflats and deep tidal channels with potential for the development of agri-aquaculture and the construction of a deep-sea port. However, these intertidal mudflats also provide vital ecosystem services and support many wildlife species, including several endangered migratory shorebirds within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. With increasing realization of the importance of maintaining such ecological values, a more integrated coastal development strategy is needed. This study aims to develop a sustainable integrated design for the Tongzhou Bay port, following a "Building with Nature" approach. We use a morphodynamic model to compute habitat suitability for two shorebird species (Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica). Several port configurations were developed on the basis of three design criteria: (1) create area for future port development, whilst (2) preserving existing high-value ecotopes for shorebirds and (3) enhance the natural accretion rate of such ecotopes. Simulation results showed a clear difference in siltation patterns, preservation and enhancement of preferred ecotopes. This work therefore demonstrates the potential and importance of morphological and habitat suitability modelling when designing large-scale reclamations and port constructions, especially in dynamic areas such as Tongzhou Bay.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2134
Number of pages22
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Ecotope
  • Ecotope map
  • Intertidal mudflats
  • Jiangsu coast
  • Mapping
  • Migratory shorebirds
  • Reclamations
  • Tongzhou bay

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