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Eco-Link@BKE

04 Nov 2015

The Eco-Link@BKE is part of Singapore’s efforts to conserve biodiversity in its urban landscape. Construction began in 2011 and ended in 2013. The first such ecological bridge in Southeast Asia, the 62m long Eco-Link@BKE aims to restore the ecological connection between two nature reserves – Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. By allowing for the effective exchange of native plant and animal genetic materials, it increases their long-term survival chances. It is important to conserve the habitats in the nature reserves because they are home to many of Singapore’s native plant species and more than 1,000 animal species.

Features of Eco-Link@BKE

Aerial photo of EcoLink

Aerial photo taken of Eco-Link@BKE in Oct 2015. Photo Credits: National Parks Board

The Eco-Link@BKE was designed with an understanding of animal behaviour and to encourage animals to cross the bridge. Some of the features include:

Wide hourglass-shaped bridge to encourage wildlife crossings (50m at its narrowest point).
Native plants to simulate natural habitats
Greenery planted at the edge to create a buffer against noise and dust pollution 

Support from the following government agencies, private organisations, NGOs, researchers and volunteers have made Eco-Link@BKE a reality.

  • Land Transport Authority

  • Ministry of Defence

  • PUB, Singapore’s national water agency

  • Nature Society (Singapore) Vertebrate Study Group

  • Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group

  • National University of Singapore

  • Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

  • Nanyang Technological University

  • NParks volunteers and members of the public

Greenery at Eco-Link@BKE

To stimulate a natural environment, all trees and shrubs planted around and on the Eco-Link@BKE are native species. The greening was carried out in three phases:

Phase One: Planting of native trees and shrubs [Q4 2013]

  • Provide forest cover for seedlings and saplings

  • Encourage wildlife crossing

Phase Two: Planting of young tropical rainforest plants [Q1 2014]

  • Create a dynamic and mature rainforest ecosystem

Phase Three: Bridge maintenance - Systematic introduction and removal of weeds [Ongoing effort]

  • Assist in forest succession

To simulate the forest environment, the planting area was filled with soil up to a height of two metres, and consists of two layers – top soil and subsoil. The soil originates from the current Eco-Link@BKE site. It was excavated and stored when construction started, and subsequently backfilled onto the bridge.

Plants along the edges act as a buffer with the aim of providing a visual and noise screen from the Bukit Timah Expressway. Some of these include the Sandy-leafed fig (Ficus heteropleura), Pokok Kelat Paya (Syzygium myrtifolium), and Common Tree-vine (Leea indica).

Further from the edges, trees that potentially grow up to a height of 15m were planted. They create a dense green cover that simulates a natural forest environment. Some of these trees also provide food for the animals. For example, the Oil Fruit Tree (Elaeocarpus mastersii) is a food source for birds. Other types of trees that can be found there are the Singapore Kopsia (Kopsia singaporensis), Seashore Mangosteen (Garcinia hombroniana) and the Petaling (Ochanostachys amentacea).

Many of these trees are only two to three years old, and are only tall enough currently to provide ground and shrub cover. When the trees are taller in another five to seven years, they will provide adequate cover for canopy animals such as the Banded Lead Monkey and Malayan Colugo to cross the bridge.

Years

State of Greenery

Animals likely to use

0-2

Grass, small shrubs, saplings

- Sunda Pangolin

- Common Palm Civets

- Emerald Dove

2-5

Grass, medium shrubs, small trees with limited forest cover

- Native small mammals such as squirrels - Shrub birds such as Babblers, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Greater Green Leadbird

> 5

Native herbs and ferns, shrubs, small and medium sized trees that provide good forest cover

- Red-cheeked Flying Squirrel

- Banded Leaf Monkey

- Malayan Colugo

Conserving and Enriching our Biodiversity with Eco-Link@BKE

With the Eco-Link@BKE, populations of native animals such as flying squirrels, monitor lizards, palm civets, pangolins, porcupines, birds, insects and snakes are able to travel between the nature reserves, expanding their habitat, foraging range and genetic pool.  Plants which are pollinated and dispersed by animals will also benefit from Eco-Link@BKE.

Nature groups, tertiary institutions and government agencies have worked closely with the National Parks Board (NParks) to conduct biodiversity monitoring surveys. A range of monitoring methods such as camera trapping, bird ringing and transect surveys were conducted within and around the vicinity of Eco-Link@BKE. Camera traps positioned strategically along Eco-Link@BKE have captured photos of animals using the bridge.

Animal

Photograph

Common Palm Civet
(
Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)

As a fruit eater, the Common Palm Civet is a good seed disperser, as fruits eaten from one nature reserve could be disposed off through its digestive system in another nature reserve after it crosses the bridge. Sometimes, civet scats, which are full of seeds, can be seen on Eco-Link@BKE.

 Common palm civetSource: National Parks Board

Sunda Pangolin
(Manis javanica)

Its other common name is Scaly Anteater. It feeds wholly on ants and termites, which it locates by its strong sense of smell. It possesses thick, powerful claws which it uses to dig into the soil in search of ant nests or to tear into termite mounds.

Sunda pangolin plays a very important role in controlling ants and termite population in our forest. Due to unsustainable hunting overseas, it is a critically endangered animal and faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

sunda pangolin

Source: National Parks Board

Slender squirrel
(Sundasciurus tenuis)

A small species, the Slender Squirrel occurs in primary and tall secondary forests. It feeds on a mix of both plant and animal material.

 

slender squirrel
 Source: National Parks Board

Emerald Dove
(Chalcophaps indica)

Also known as Green-winged pigeon, Emerald Doves are secretive and shy, and usually forage under tree cover.

emerald doveSource: National Parks Board

Dos and Don’ts of Visiting Eco-Link@BKE

Animals are very sensitive to smell, and are likely to shy away from using the bridge if there is a constant and heavy human scent in the area. Hence, Eco-Link@BKE is restricted to public access to minimise human disturbance to animals.

However, the bridge can accommodate occasional visits by researchers, surveyors and guided walks for the public. When Eco-Link@BKE was designed, a walkway was factored in to allow for the public to eventually access it, after assessing its effectiveness as a wildlife corridor through ongoing ecological monitoring surveys.

During public guided walks, visitors are advised to:

  • Avoid wearing brightly coloured clothes, as these are often interpreted by animals as danger

  • Avoid using insect repellent or sunscreen, as the scent may deter the animals from using the bridge

  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants to avoid insect bites

  • Prepare adequately, such as wearing proper footwear (hiking or covered shoes), bringing sufficient water, and a hat to shield themselves from the sun.

Last updated on 09 July 2018

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