This chapter aims to provide an insight on the state of biodiversity in Singapore.

Singapore is an interesting case study of biodiversity. Singapore over the last 30 years has experienced a major transformation from a third world country to a highly developed nation. This development has been at the expense of severe damage to the original biodiversity.

Much of the species found in Singapore a century ago are no longer found on the island.

Another particularity of Singapore is that it is an Island nation of relatively small size. Most of the islands land has now been sacrified for development purposes should it be industrial or residential.

However, in its late history, Singapore is trying to preserve what is left of its original biodiversity by implementing a number of measures.

About 5% of the land in Singapore has been dedicated to serve as natural parks. Only a few parks hold original ecosystems. However the city is also making efforts to incorporate the natural environment into the city scape itself. Such initiative will  not bring back the original biodiversity but at least brings some degree of biodiversity back to the city.

Such concepts could well be inspirational for cities of the future around the world. As 80% of the world population will be living in cities by 2050, it is important to design cities by integrating natural features.

The environmental issues that Singapore faces today are characteristic of highly-urbanized cities  

These issues pertain to preventing pollution from industrialization and urbanization, preventing marine pollution in its highly-traversed waters and the protection of nature areas

At the expense of intense development, Singapore has already lost most of its original biodiversity 

Singapore is a good case study of the fact that maintaining a few localized biodiverse spots within a city is not sufficient to prevent important species loss

Singapore holds many bio-diverse ecosystems due to its suitable location near the equator

However, Singapore has already lost most of its natural environment and biodiversity due to rapid development in the last 30 years

A study published in May 2010, “Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries”, ranks Singapore as the highest in relative environmental impact. This research was conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute,  National University of Singapore and Princeton University

This study shows that relative to its land size, development in Singapore has significantly contributed to its forest loss, natural habitat conversion, marine captures, carbon emissions and biodiversity

Singapore has lost 90 percent of its forest, 67 per cent of its birds, about 40 per cent of its mammals and 5 per cent of its amphibians and reptiles.  Of the original mangroves, less than 5% is left.  39% of all native coastal plants are extinct

A large proportion of the remaining species are endangered and their habitats are threatened by urban development and land reclamation

Singapore continues to be challenged with pressures of modernization, limited land availability and a mandate to preserve the well-being of its environment and of its citizens

In order to overcome these challenges, the Singapore government and urban planners have designed and implemented strategies in the last 30 years to make Singapore a city garden     

Today Singapore is one of the few cities in the world which has managed to incorporate green spaces and parks within its urban environment •

Over 13% of Singapore’s land area is dedicated to greening the urban landscape and maintaining a healthy ecosystem; this includes parks, park connectors, green spaces and nature reserves

There is a significant percentage of land allocated for non-residential and non-commercial use for a country as small as Singapore

Furthermore, in the next 10-15 years, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) plans to add new parks and park connectors  to Singapore’s.  In URA's Concept Plan and Master Plan, URA aims to eventually link up the whole island in a 150 km round island route

To promote green building technologies and designs, Singapore introduced a Green Mark Scheme for Buildings.  A number of buildings have been Green Mark certified under this initiative since it was implemented in 2005  

The National Parks Board has created rooftop gardens in commercial and residential buildings which have both aesthetic and environmental benefits including a positive impact on biodiversity should green roofs be implemented on  large scale

Green vertical walls have also been built at sites such as Changi Airport. Such initiatives are only starting to appear in the city environment  in Singapore and around the world as case studies. Large scale implementation would however be required to make a significant difference on biodiversity in cities

A key objective to Singapore’s greening initiatives is to raise awareness and educate its citizens; and to engender in Singaporeans a sense of love and respect for nature  

The everyday practices of individuals can pose a threat to Southeast Asia’s ecosystems

Urban lifestyle habits such as excessive consumption and waste, inadequate recycling, and the demand for exotic animal products are just a few of the ways that Singaporeans have a negative impact on the environment

Changing these harmful lifestyles and habits start with changing the mindsets of Singaporeans

One of the biggest criticisms to Singapore's city greening effort is that it is superficial, too high-maintenance and, ultimately, not ecologically sustainable

Priority has been given to man-made greening of highways, streets and residential areas and not enough effort has been invested conversing and restoring the little natural areas left in Singapore .

In recent years to preserve its heritage, Singapore has retained several restricted nature reserve sites where land development is inhibited and the inherent ecosystems are protected

The reserves are utilized for research in preserving and revitalizing biodiversity in Singapore and educating the public.  However, more can still be done to implement legal legislature and define land boundaries to protect Singapore’s nature reserves

Singapore Remaining Biodiverse Locations:

Case Study Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin’s vegetation was once cleared for the cultivation of rubber and crops like coffee, pineapple, coconut and jasmine

Today, it is one of the last rural areas in Singapore having been preserved from urban development, concrete buildings and tarmac roads.  Pulau Ubin contains an abundance of natural flora and fauna   

Chek Jawa is a 5,000 year old coral reef on Pulau Ubin. Relatively well preserved ecosystems  such as wetlands can still be found on Chek Jawa

In 2009, the mouse-deer, which has been thought to be extinct for over 80 years, was discovered on Pulau Ubin.  Scientists speculate that preservation of nature in Pulau Ubin has allowed for this creature to spread again

Recovering species is a positive sign that over long periods of preservations, wild life and eco-systems can be repopulated to some extent

Case Study: Pulau Tekong

Pulau Tekong is known for  being exclusively used for military training.  Less known is that  Pulau Tekong has one of the largest remaining mangrove forests in Singapore

Coastal erosion is putting this 92 hectares of mangroves in danger.  Erosion is being caused by the movement of ships and strong sea waves

In 2010, the National Parks Board is undertaking a project to restore and stabilize the coast line.  8,000 mangrove saplings will be planted to help deflect sea waves and increase the biodiversity on the island

The work being done by the National Parks Board is a prime example of how Singapore is protecting it’s remaining biodiverse areas

Case Study: Sunggei Buloh

Sunggei Buloh holds extensive mangrove environments with their associated rich biodiversity

This site is of global importance as it has a high variety of bird species which include migratory birds that stop over from as far as Siberia on their way to Australia

Other reserves of interest in Singapore include the MacRitchie reservoir, Singapore’s oldest reservoir, as well as Bukit Timah reserve which has a dense tropical rainforest

A lot can still be done in Singapore in the pursue of becoming one of the worlds first “city in a garden”

Singapore is one of the few cities in the world which has managed to incorporate green spaces and parks within the urban environment.  Examples include the popular Singapore Botanic Gardens, busy East Coast Park and tranquil Mount Fabor  

There are more opportunities for Singapore to incorporate natural features within its urban environment. For example, there is potential in the implementation of large scale vertical green walls and to expand the connection of parks and waterways

To this point, in the next 10-15 years, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) plans to add new parks and park connectors to Singapore’s North-East, East and North Regions

In Singapore’s North Region, the URA also plans to enhance nature-oriented leisure attractions at Mandai and Kranji

Singapore extensive network of water reservoirs help to maintain some bio-diverse ecosystems. However, the creation of new reservoirs such as the Marina Bay reservoir are also controversial when it comes to biodiversity disturbance

The marina bay reservoir despite having some advantages for flood control and water management will have significant negative impacts on biodiversity. As the water within the bay will slowly change from salty to fresh water, many species which inhabited the bay wont be able to adapt to the salinity sudden change

Most of the species found in Singapore are not endemic to the Island but have been introduced from neighboring countries

Due to its proximity to Malaysia, most species found in Singapore are also found in Malaysia. There is therefore only few real endemic species in Singapore itself

Invasive species is a big problem in Singapore

As a major transport transit platform for South East Asia, numerous indigenous species are regularly introduced to Singapore. The pet and trade industry is also a big contributor as these species are regularly released into the environment (reservoirs, parks…)

Singapore has a few good examples to illustrate that industrial development can be made by not entirely compromising the surrounding ecosystems

In Singapore most of the waste is incinerated and the remains from this process are disposed on an artificial landfill. On the other side of this landfill however lies a nature reserve with extensive sea grass, coral reefs and mangroves. This is a very good (and unique) example of how a bio-diverse environment can co-exist to some extent with industrial installations

As highlighted in this chapter, Singapore is a very good case study to illustrate the dilemma faced by urban areas and biodiversity conservation.

Singapore has already sacrified most of its biodiversity for development purposes. Only a few isolated parks and natural spaces are left in the island city.

However, when compared to other cities around the world, Singapore is actually a good example of how intense development and high population densities can be done in such a way to minimize biodiversity losses and/or bring biodiversity back to city environments to some extent.

Singapore has an ambitious plan to become the worlds first true city in a garden. Numerous initiatives such as improving existing parks, interconnecting these parks through green pathways and the development of roof-top gardens and vertical walls are under development.

Since most of the world population will be living in cities in a few decades, Singapore is a good case study of how cities around the world should develop by incorporating natural features into their design.

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