16 June 2011 Can’t Live Without ‘Em: Shorebirds Posted by: John Motsinger | 1 comment | Share: If red knots go the way of the dodo, there’s a lot more at stake than just losing yet another one of nature’s treasures. With the imperiled shorebird species in serious trouble, local communities up and down the East Coast also stand to lose millions of dollars in revenue from avid birders and casual wildlife tourists alike. Each spring, thousands of visitors flock to New Jersey’s Delaware Bay to catch a glimpse of numerous shorebirds, including red knots, which swarm onto beach heads in search of eggs deposited by horseshoe crabs. In total, nearly half a million birders pass through the bay area each year, spending between $6 and $10 million on their trips, with an economic multiplier of $12 to $20 million once the money filters through local communities. (Read this full report on bay area ecotourism, prepared for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in 2000). But all those dollars could quickly disappear along with the dwindling populations of shorebirds. Fellow Defenders blogger Caitlin Leutwiler recently reported that populations of migrating red knots recorded in southern Chile declined by 5,000, putting the overall population below 25,000. Losing one-fifth of the entire population in a single year is a huge concern, especially since climate change continues to wreak havoc on the red knots’ food supply and extreme migration. Many shorebirds rely on the eggs of horseshoe crabs as an essential source of protein in order to complete their long migratory journeys. But overfishing for bait and the biomedical industry have sent the population of horseshoe crabs into a tailspin from which they’ve yet to recover. With such a reduced population, ocean acidification and the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms brought on by climate change could deal the species a final blow. The entire ecosystem of horseshoe crabs, shorebirds and other coastal and marine species is at risk unless action is taken to protect them. Red knots are quickly becoming another proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for the snowballing effects of climate change. With one of the longest migrations in the entire world, from the Canadian Arctic to as far as the tip of South America, the loss of red knots will literally be felt throughout ecosystems halfway around the world. That includes the hundreds of business owners and wildlife enthusiasts that benefit from a booming ecotourism industry around the Delaware Bay. Learn more: See how a listing under the Endangered Species Act could save the red knot. Get more background on red knots and see how Defenders is working to save them. PausePlayPlayPrev|Next Red knots migrate all the way from the Canadian Arctic to the tip of South America. A closeup of Mispillion red knots on the beach A platoon of red knots take to the sky. One Response to “Can’t Live Without ‘Em: Shorebirds” Andrew Harper June 16th, 2011 This is an amazing story of wildlife migration and how a species relies on the Horseshoe Crab for survival. I was honored to see these scientists study these birds. We need to protect these birds now by putting a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs until the population bounces back. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in The Votes Are In… You voted, and we listened – now the winners of Defenders’ 2014 Photo Contest are here! See if your favorite won, and take a look at some of the amazing runner-ups. We’ve Got to Protect What’s Left of the Sagebrush Sea New research shows that after a fire, the Sagebrush Sea (home to the imperiled greater sage-grouse) could take up to 20 years to fully recover. With other factors already threatening so much of this habitat, what does that mean for the species that call it home? California prepares to welcome wolves home, but delays on providing state protections Now, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protection for wolves throughout most of the rest of the country, gray wolves are once again at risk. Delisting would short-circuit wolf recovery in the Pacific West and would effectively mean giving up on one of our country’s most important and iconic species. Fortunately, California has an opportunity to play a meaningful role in helping the gray wolf continue to recover in the coming months and years.