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Community participates in efforts to enhance Pulau Ubin’s natural heritage as part of the International Day for Biological Diversity celebrations on island

22 May 2016
  • New shoreline restoration measures to be carried out at Noordin Beach
  • New coastal boardwalk for public to be built

Singapore, 22 May 2016 — Members of the community today gathered at Pulau Ubin to participate in reforestation and species recovery efforts as part of the International Day for Biological Diversity celebrations on the island. Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Desmond Lee, together with over 100 members of the community, planted mangrove saplings at the Ubin Living Lab’s new mangrove arboretum to help reforest the island’s mangroves. In addition, SMS Lee gave an update on the progress for some of species recovery efforts initiated by the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) as part of The Ubin Project. SMS Lee also announced that the National Parks Board (NParks) will begin physical works for shoreline restoration at Noordin Beach in 2017. As part of restoration works, a new coastal boardwalk will be built for the public to appreciate views of the sea and coastal forests.

SMS Lee said, “Singapore may be small, but we are teeming with biodiversity. Just in Pulau Ubin alone, we have over 720 native plant species and over 500 animal species, including some not found on mainland Singapore. This is remarkable, but we must do more. We have plans to restore Ubin’s eroding shoreline, which will serve as a base for more of Pulau Ubin’s flora and fauna to be restored in the near future. 

But we cannot do this alone. As we gather to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity on Pulau Ubin today, we also celebrate the strong partnership with the community that has allowed us to achieve progress in our species recovery efforts for the unique biodiversity on the island. There will certainly be more avenues for community participation with initiatives, such as the orchid conservation project and mangrove restoration programme. I hope that many more Singaporeans will join us in our endeavour to conserve the many living organisms that exist alongside us.”

International Day for Biological Diversity celebrations on Pulau Ubin

The International Day for Biological Diversity is held yearly worldwide on 22 May to increase global awareness of biodiversity issues. As part of the celebrations on Pulau Ubin, the public could attend talks and workshops about the island’s biodiversity. In addition, the community, including FUN members, planted 100 trees at the mangrove arboretum in the Ubin Living Lab. In the long run, these trees would supplement restoration efforts across the island. Mangrove forests are vital to the coastal zone in Pulau Ubin as they protect the shoreline from erosion. Restoring mangrove ecosystems would in turn conserve the habitats for native biodiversity like fiddler crabs and mudskippers. The activities organised today were part of NParks’ efforts to raise awareness and deepen public appreciation for native biodiversity on the island, as well as share how the public can play a part to sustain our natural heritage for future generations.

Shoreline restoration works at Noordin Beach – new boardwalk to be built for public

Shoreline restoration was one of the earliest priorities for The Ubin Project when it was first announced in 2014. The island’s shoreline was observed to be eroding, in particular the northern part of the island at Noordin Beach, along the mangroves and low cliff faces. This has led to a loss of coastal and mangrove habitats. Furthermore, the erosion exposed the foundations of old buildings and undermined the structural integrity of two shelters. The severity of the erosion led to the closure of Noordin Beach, a popular camping site, in 2013 for public safety. 

Feasibility studies for shoreline restoration efforts began in mid-2015 and concluded in May 2016. Some of the key causes of erosion were identified to be changes in wave conditions   partly due to ship wakes as well as changes in land use. 

Consultants have carried out modelling studies to assess various measures. The use of headlands as well as the addition of sand to extend the shoreline seaward has been identified as a possible measure to restore the island’s northern shoreline in areas including Noordin Beach and Mamam Beach. This will be supplemented by mangrove restoration efforts. The headlands will also provide opportunities to restore beach vegetation in the area.

When works are completed, Noordin Beach will be reopened for visitors to engage in nature-based recreation. In addition, a coastal boardwalk of about 500 m long would be integrated into the restoration works, part of which will extend into the sea, affording visitors views of the island’s coastal mangroves and hills. Furthermore, restoration of Pulau Ubin’s shoreline will lay the foundations for future phases of habitat enhancement and species recovery projects. See Factsheet A for more details on shoreline restoration measures.

Species recovery efforts under The Ubin Project – design for otter holts unveiled

NParks unveiled a design for new otter holts or dens to be used in species recovery efforts for the Oriental Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea). As part of overall species recovery plans mapped out under The Ubin Project, these holts are being constructed for the critically endangered native otter for the first time in Singapore. By end-2016, two holts will be installed at Noordin Beach and near the Sensory Trail ponds to monitor and study otter behaviour.

Much of Pulau Ubin’s rustic charm lies in the unique native biodiversity which cannot be found on the mainland. The native Sheath-Covered Spathe Robiquetia (Robiquetia spathulata) orchid was previously thought to be extirpated until it was rediscovered in 2006 by NParks staff. Together with other endangered native orchids like the Jamba (Neuwiedia veratrifolia) and Thrixspermum amplexicaule, these are among some 800 orchids from 15 distinct species that are currently being propagated and reintroduced across Pulau Ubin as part of the NParks Orchid Conservation Programme.

Other species recovery efforts include installing 30 bat boxes of six different designs across Pulau Ubin for insectivorous bats to roost. One of these boxes has been installed at the Ubin Living Lab. The bat recovery programme aims to increase the diversity of bats on Pulau Ubin, and assist in the recovery of uncommon species. Part of this programme will complement the forthcoming shoreline restoration works as a bat house has been set up near Noordin Beach in early 2016.

Examples of biodiversity found on Pulau Ubin and not on mainland Singapore are in Factsheet B.

Restoring Ubin Mangroves (RUM)

Amongst those who planted at the mangrove arboretum today were RUM members. Conceived during one of the FUN sessions, the RUM initiative serves to restore mangrove forests through a science-based approach complemented by community outreach efforts. The Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) approach will be applied based on science-informed methods, taking into consideration site characteristics and environmental factors to regenerate mangrove populations. Mangrove restoration measures are being considered for the mangroves along Sungei Besar, Sungei Mamam and Sungei Jelutong. Some of these mangrove restoration efforts may also be adapted to protect the island’s shorelines where they have been observed to be eroding. More details of the EMR can be found in Factsheet C.

RUM Members include the Marine Conservation Group of the Nature Society (Singapore), Gamefish and Aquatic Restoration Society (GARS), Eastern fish farmers at Pulau Ubin, the Mangrove Lab (Department of Geography, National University of Singapore) and founder of wildSingapore, Ms Ria Tan. This is coordinated as part of NParks' habitat restoration and reforestation programme on the island.

Members of the public who are interested to participate in RUM can sign up at http://rum-initiative.blogspot.sg/.

Public activities on Pulau Ubin

Members of the public who wish to learn more about Pulau Ubin’s cultural and natural legacy may sign up for activities under Pesta Ubin, organised by volunteers and FUN members, running from 14 May to 12 June. Details can be found on the Pesta Ubin website at http://pestaubin2016.blogspot.sg/.

The upcoming Ubin Day on 4 June offers more opportunities to participate in events centred on Pulau Ubin’s heritage. Activities include guided walks and craft workshops which showcase the biodiversity on Pulau Ubin’s shores. Children below the age of 12 can also join in a storytelling by bestselling author Neil Humphreys, who will be sharing from his latest children’s book on Pulau Ubin. Please visit www.nparks.gov.sg/ubin for more information and to register for activities.

Factsheet A - Details on shoreline restoration measures
Factsheet B - Examples of biodiversity found on Pulau Ubin and not on mainland Singapore
Factsheet C - Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR)
Factsheet D - Information of tree planted by Senior Minister of State, Desmond Lee 

Last updated on 09 July 2018

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