Loss of natural wetlands is a global phenomenon that has been a serious threat to the wildlife. A common practice is to construct artificial wetlands to compensate for the loss of natural wetlands. To test whether artificial wetlands as habitats for waterbirds are good alternatives to natural wetlands, we compared species richness, abundance, and seasonal dynamics of waterbird communities of natural ( here tidelands) and artificial wetlands ( here aquacultural ponds) on Chongming Island, China. Our results indicate that habitat preference of waterbirds showed seasonal difference: most of the shorebirds were found on tidelands in spring, whereas most of the natatorial birds were recorded in aquacultural ponds in winter. Waterbirds preferred the tidelands rather than aquacultural ponds in both spring and autumn, whereas they showed no preference for either the tidelands or the ponds in summer and winter. It is concluded that natural wetlands are better habitats for waterbirds than artificial wetlands on Chongming Island, while the artificial ones are also suitable habitats for waterbirds in winter. The waterbirds might use artificial wetlands only when natural wetlands are unavailable or of poor quality. An over- emphasis that artificial wetlands are suitable habitats for waterbirds might encourage land managers to convert natural wetlands into the artificial ones, resulting in considerable loss of bird diversity. Therefore, for the purpose of bird conservation, it would be a better practice to conserve natural wetlands rather than to construct artificial ones after destruction of natural wetlands.
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