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Fewer birds spending winter in central China wetlands

(Xinhua)

08:54, March 27, 2012

CHANGSHA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Fewer migratory birds spent the winter in the Dongting Lake wetlands in central China's Hunan Province, as last year's drought and persistent cold weather over the past few months have resulted in a severe food shortage for the birds.

Earlier this year, the lake's administrative staff recorded 103,843 birds in a two-day research project, marking a 40-percent decline from last year when 170,000 birds were found around the lake.

Last year, Dongting Lake, the country's second largest freshwater lake, suffered from its worst drought in decades.

Persistent dry weather had decreased the water areas of the East Dongting Lake Nature Reserve by 85 percent by June, killing massive amounts of aquatic plants and fish -- major food sources for birds, according to the reserve's administrative bureau.

Rains and cold weather this year further aggravated the situation. Lasting cold weather stunted the growth of sedge, a major food for geese, said Zhang Hong, chief engineer of the bureau.

Meanwhile, rains drove up water in the winter, a time when water levels usually drop, submerging parts of the wetlands and leaving some birds unable to find food, Zhang added.

Workers at the reserve planted winter wheat across hundreds of mu as food supply for the birds, Zhang said.

Still, experts believe that the number of birds flocking to Dongting Lake for winter will continue to drop over the next five years, as it will take time for the plant life and fish to recover. (1 mu equals 666.7 square meters)

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