For many years, researchers have wondered why the huge mudflats of Roberts Bank, near Vancouver, are so special to migrating Western Sandpipers. Every year around 2 million Western Sandpipers stop to rest and refuel on these mudflats. This is a substantial proportion of the world’s population of this shorebird species. The area’s key importance for Western Sandpipers is one of the reasons why the entire Boundary Bay – Roberts Bank – Sturgeon Bank – Fraser River Estuary area around Vancouver is recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area.
So, why is this important? Well, it helps us to understand just why migrating Western Sandpipers need to stop and refuel at Roberts Bank and not some other nearby mudflat: it’s the biofilm. And it highlights the particular importance and challenge of conserving this special place – we need to make sure that the mudflats and their biofilm are safeguarded. There is already a large container port, and all its associated traffic, close to where the sandpipers feed, and a projected port expansion could have serious impacts to the habitat (including the biofilm) in the area. We need to make sure the locations where the sandpipers eat, as well as what they are eating, are protected.
(Photo: T. Kuwae)