Posted October. 29, 2008 08:19,
The 10th Ramsar Convention began yesterday in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. The international environmental meeting for preserving wetlands is not only promoting Korean awareness of wetlands, but also promoting eco-tourism that allows people to enjoy the natural environment.
Every weekend, Upo Wetland and Junam Reservoir, located near the conventions venue, are filled with tourists. Since they were designated the official tour courses for the convention, free shuttle buses began running to allow more convenient tours.
○ Upo: age-old national swamp
Upo Wetland is the largest swamp in Korea. Straddling four townships in Changwon, it covers 8.54 square kilometers of land, 210 times as large as a soccer field. Consisting of four swamps -- Upo (1.28 square kilometers); Mokpo (0.53 square kilometers); Sajipo (0.36 square kilometers); and Jjokjibeol (0.14 square kilometers), the combined size of the wetland reaches 2.31 square kilometers.
Upo is also Koreas oldest swamp. Judging from sedimentary rocks in its surroundings that hold dinosaur footprints, scientists assume that the wetland was created 140 million years ago. Over the long stretch of time, the repeated cycle of water flow and stagnation created a self-supporting ecosystem that balances production and consumption.
For its diverse species and rich habitat for wildlife, the wetland was included on the Ramsar Wetland Conservation List in March 1998. It is home to endangered species such as the spoonbill, wildcat and Euryale ferox, 344 kinds of plants including scirpus fluviatilis and bladderwort, and 76 bird species such as the whooper swan and spot-billed duck.
Over the convention period, exhibition guides dispatched to main excursion sites, such as observation decks and levees, will show visitors around the wetland. Tourists can also get assistance from guides at tourism information centers.
Tourists are surprised at the sheer size of the marshes and rich fauna and flora that include more than 1,000 species, said Roh Yong-ho, in charge of Upo eco-tourism. Upo Wetland is getting worldwide attention as a valuable ecosystem.
For visitors, Changwon provides free shuttle bus service in such places as Changwon Exhibition Convention Center and Bugok.
The buses in front of the center provide a four-hour tour and will depart from the center four times a day over the convention period at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
In Bugok, free shuttle buses run three times on weekdays (9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:20 p.m.) and four times on weekends (9 a.m., 9:50 a.m., 1:50 p.m., 2:10 p.m.).
For those who use trains, shuttle buses are on standby at Miryang Station to take them to Upo Wetland three times a day. They run on a first-come, first-served basis.
○ Junam Reservoir: Paradise for migratory birds
Junam Reservoir is the nations biggest inland stopover for migratory birds. The birds come to the reservoir looking for food such as duckweed and hornwort. Last year, a variety of migratory birds were spotted, including endangered species such as the spoonbill, black-faced spoonbill, white-tailed sea eagle, lesser white-fronted goose and black kite.
Fall and winter are the perfect seasons for observing migratory birds. Some 5,000 to 6,000 of them stop by Junam Reservoir every day in summer, but the number hits 10,000 to 20,000 in winter. Last year, 16,569 birds spanning 60 species came to the wetland in October, 48,056 spanning 65 species in November, and 38,966 covering 72 species in December. Covering nearly six square kilometers, the reservoir comprises three small wetlands: Junam, Dongpan and Sannam.
This year, winter migratory birds such as the Taiga bean goose and wild duck came earlier than before. Some species such as the black-faced spoonbill rarely seen inland were spotted. Its really breathtaking to watch large flocks of snowy egrets, wild geese, and Baikal teals covering the sky, said Park Je-wook of the Ramsar Cultural Center.
Shuttle buses running twice a day (9:30 a.m., 3 p.m.) depart from the Changwon City Hall. For participation, reservations are needed at outdoor information booths in Changwon and those near Yongji Lake.
On weekends, free shuttle buses run five times a day (9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m.) at Changwon Exhibition Convention Center. They also run on a first-come first-served basis and tourist guides are available.