KEY NORTH AMERICAN MIGRATION SITES FOR
Red Knots & Semipalmated Sandpipers

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Country: USA

Region: Alaska,

Site: Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Species/Sub-species: REKN-roselaari

Total biogeographic population: 21,770

Count Method: Maximum day count

Count: 6,4001,2

% biogeographic pop. at site: 29.40

Season (primarily): Spring

Site recognition: WHSRN

Site recognition (other): National Wildlife Refuge; qualify as RAMSAR site but not successful in acquiring the designation.

Site description: Using the Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type, the site habitat characteristics are inland wetland (permanent inland deltas) and marine and coastal (intertidal mud, sand or salt flats). Land ownership is state and federal, and includes US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Interior, Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Alaska. Existing knowledge about the site was gathered in a comprehensive Conservation Plan. Comprehensive surveys have been conducted only for Bar-tailed Godwits. Considerable research has been conducted on the refuge over the last several decades, by refuge personnel, US Geological Survey, graduate students, and international collaborators3,4.

Known threats: Subsistence harvest of large shorebirds has increased dramatically along the central Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coastline over the last several years. The reasons for and scope of the increase are unknown. This is a particular concern for species with small and/or declining populations. This is the only region in the US where an entire ethnic group (the Yup'ik Eskimos) still derives the bulk of their food from an extensive and unmanipulated ecosystem. The presence of open dumps in neighboring villages could attract/increase Common Raven and predation on shorebird nests. Another threat is human intrusion and disturbance due to work and other activities (increase of off-road vehicles). Climate Change also poses a threat in terms of habitat shifting and alteration (coastal erosion).3,5

Notes: The site boundaries follow the WHSRN site and National Wildlife Refuge boundaries. Because the potential partners in a comprehensive Yukon Delta WHSRN site were so numerous and diverse (over a dozen different villages, an even greater number of village corporations, plus the state of Alaska), and because shorebird conservation is not even on the radar screen for most residents of the Delta, it was decided to seek designation of just refuge lands as a WHSRN site. This leaves millions of acres of Native land adjacent to refuge lands undesignated. In addition, much of the critical intertidal zone adjacent to the designated site is administered by the state of Alaska, and "ownership" of several major bays along the coast is also a subject of dispute (State and Federal governments both claim jurisdiction)3. Important areas include Andreafsky Wilderness, Yukon River Delta, Central Yukon-Kuskokwim and Kuskokwim River Delta.

Sources: 1Carmona, R., N. Arce, V. Ayala-Perez, A. Hernández-Alvarez, J.B. Buchanan, L.J. Salzer, P.S. Tomkovich, J.A. Johnson, R.E. Gill, Jr., B.J. McCaffery, J.E. Lyons, L.J. Niles, and D. Newstead. 2013. Red Knot Calidris canutus roselaari migration connectivity, abundance and non-breeding distribution along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Wader Study Group Bulletin 120(3): 168–180. 2McCaffery, B.J., R.E. Gill, Jr., C.M. Handel and C.R. Ely. 2009. The status of Red Knots during spring migration in Alaska. In: T. Piersma (compiler). Global Flyway Network: progress report for 2008, 72–73. 3WHSRN Site Assessment Tool (SAT) 2008 4USFWS. 2004. Land Conservation Plan for Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Bethel, Alaska http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/planning/pdf/YD_LCP.pdf 5WHSRN nomination/Site Profile: http://www.whsrn.org/site-profile/yukon-delta-nwr