NParks taps further on science, education and outreach to strengthen conservation efforts and community stewardship
21 May 2022
- New long-term forest survey and plant checklist and bibliography to better understand Singapore’s natural heritage and guide conservation strategies
- Commemoration of Every Child A Seed’s 10th anniversary, and Community in Nature Schools Award, as part of efforts to nurture stewardship
- Enhanced wildlife management framework anchored by outreach and science to more effectively manage native biodiversity while ensuring public safety
At the launch of the Festival of Biodiversity today, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced plans to further leverage science, education and outreach to strengthen conservation efforts and safeguard Singapore’s natural heritage. This will be done through various new initiatives – such as the publication of a new plant checklist and bibliography, setting up long-term study plots in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and an enhanced wildlife management framework – to strengthen nature research here while encouraging greater community stewardship and ensuring public health and safety. These efforts will cultivate a deeper understanding of Singapore’s natural heritage for a better coexistence with nature in our City in Nature. This is also in line with this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity, “Building a shared future for all”.
The 11th edition of the Festival of Biodiversity was hosted by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who was joined by Guest-of-Honour Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing. To further inculcate the community from young to become stewards of our natural heritage, Minister Chan Chun Sing also announced a special edition of NParks’ Every Child A Seed programme this year in commemoration of its 10th anniversary, as well as presented awards to the winners of the Community in Nature Schools Award.
Understanding Singapore’s natural heritage through research
Minister Desmond Lee also launched the Flora of Singapore: Checklist and bibliography, a definitive reference guide on the native, naturalised and casual plants in Singapore. It is the most comprehensive and thorough of its kind in Singapore, accounting for all the names ever used for wild plants here, as well as their bibliographic references and conservation assessments. This was clarified from over 7,500 names used in almost 50,000 literature citations from plant research in Singapore from the last 200 years.
In total, the guide comprises 2,654 native species and 580 species that were either introduced and established locally or are of uncertain origin. This includes 11 native and endemic species, of which three are considered globally extinct.
The guide will supplement botanical research in Singapore and is particularly helpful for botanists, horticulturists, nature enthusiasts, policy planners and nature surveyors in their work. For instance, having a guide with the bibliographic references of all wild plants in Singapore could help other researchers find resources they may not have known existed. It may also stimulate other researchers to build further on existing work, or act as a source tracker for a growing body of botanical research here.
The guide also complements the Flora of Singapore project, which aims to catalogue and describe all the plants species that can be found here, from mosses to flowering plants. The Flora of Singapore: Checklist and bibliography project was led by a team of NParks researchers and compiled with the help of more than a hundred experts from around 20 different countries.
Beyond that, NParks is embarking on a new long-term ecological monitoring of Singapore’s forests to better understand the changes in populations of plants and animals as well as ecosystem processes over time. This will involve the marking out of 62 forest plots across the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, where its vegetation, wildlife and soil will be studied repeatedly over time. These plots would be at the same locations surveyed in 1992 by the late Mr Wong Yew Kwan, Singapore’s first Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, to study the vegetation and tree populations. Data gathered and discoveries made from the 1992 study had helped to inform NParks’ management of the forest in our Nature Reserves.
This makes for the most extensive network of forest plots in Singapore to be studied. Insights gleaned from the survey will enable NParks to update its baseline knowledge of the forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, while providing researchers with a clearer understanding of how they have changed over the past 30 years. This will help to enhance current conservation efforts to better conserve biodiversity and improve the resilience of Singapore’s ecosystems.
Together, the new guide and research efforts will not only deepen NParks’ understanding of Singapore’s natural heritage, but it will also enhance conservation work to strengthen the island’s ecological resilience and mitigate the impacts of climate change and urbanisation.
Nurturing stewards of the future through education
The community’s involvement is crucial in nature conservation, especially as Singapore transforms into a City in Nature. NParks is therefore further empowering youth in the community through education to become active stewards for nature.
As part of efforts to commemorate the 10th anniversary of NParks’ Every Child A Seed programme, NParks will be introducing a special edition of the programme this year. The programme, which started in 2013, provides children with an opportunity to grow their own plants and play a part in the greening of Singapore. Through it, every Primary Three student is given a starter kit consisting of a pot, potting mix and a pack of seeds. Complementary teaching materials, tailored to the Primary Science syllabus, are also provided to schools.
The programme aims to nurture an appreciation for nature among students while educating them on the science and function of plants. It also reinforces the values of care and responsibility through the planting process. Since its inception, around 437,000 students from primary schools and special education schools have participated in the programme.
In this year’s special edition of the programme, all Primary Three students will receive three packets of edible gardening seeds instead of the usual one. In addition, all 190 primary schools in Singapore will also receive special seed packets of a native herbaceous plant species, the Crepe Ginger (Cheilocostus speciosus), and complementary teaching materials. This will enable the teachers to plant the native Crepe Ginger in schools and further nurture a deeper appreciation for gardening and nature in students while fostering the next generation of nature stewards.
During the launch event of Festival of Biodiversity, Minister Chan Chun Sing gave out prizes to the winners of the Community in Nature Schools Award. This is a biennial recognition scheme to celebrate the works of schools, as well as motivate teachers and students to contribute to local biodiversity conservation efforts. It aims to connect and engage the community, while encouraging them to care more deeply for nature. In its second run this year, 65 nominations were received for the award – from among schools, teachers and students of various education levels – up from 44 nominations in 2020.
Launched in 2011, the Community in Nature initiative is a national movement to connect and engage different groups in the community to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage. It is aligned with Singapore’s City in Nature vision and brings together all of NParks’ nature-related events, activities and programmes to better engage the community and encourage them to bond over and with nature.
Outreach backed by science
Since taking over animal-related functions in April 2019, including wildlife management, NParks has been consolidating its resources to develop its approach to wildlife conservation and management. NParks is now enhancing its wildlife management framework to more effectively manage Singapore’s wildlife population while ensuring public health and safety. This will be anchored by community outreach and backed by science to restore and maintain the island’s ecosystem balance while cultivating an informed citizenry to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of nature.
The framework consists of four main prongs – public education, community stewardship, population ecology and population management – with more focused efforts on strengthening stewardship among the community. For example, NParks will be building new partnerships with grassroots communities to educate, engage and encourage residents to participate in local biodiversity and conservation efforts. This will not only build up the community’s knowledge on nature, but it will also help to nurture more custodians of Singapore’s natural heritage.
On top of that, NParks will work with development owners and management to better manage the community’s encounters with wildlife. Building managers and security personnel, for instance, will be trained by NParks officers to carry out monkey guarding. This will herd and condition monkeys to stay away from a certain area. Over time, it will create a negative association for monkeys and act as an invisible barrier, thereby reducing monkey-human encounters in the area.
Altogether, this enhanced framework will help to cultivate greater public awareness and understanding of our native biodiversity, as well as NParks’ approach towards wildlife management, to better manage the community’s encounters with nature. It also demonstrates NParks’ commitment to conserving and sustainably managing native biodiversity here, while fostering the community’s sense of ownership for nature and the environment. This will facilitate our transformation into a City in Nature, to build a better future for all in a green, liveable and sustainable city.
Additionally, NParks engages the community to manage, conserve and strengthen biodiversity in Singapore through various citizen science programmes. The Butterfly Watch, for instance, is a Community in Nature initiative organised by NParks and ButterflyCircle that gives volunteers an opportunity to gather valuable information about butterflies in our parks and gardens. Data collected during the biannual survey, which first began in 2015, will help to establish a baseline knowledge of patterns in butterfly populations in Singapore. This will then be useful in developing management strategies to sustain or even enhance these populations of butterflies.
Recently, NParks has collaborated with ButterflyCircle founder Mr Khew Sin Khoon to produce a new Butterflies of Singapore pictorial guide, which features 180 species of butterflies that can be found in Singapore. The pictorial guide will serve as a useful reference for volunteers and participants of Butterfly Watch.
Festival of Biodiversity
The Festival of Biodiversity, organised by NParks in collaboration with the Biodiversity Roundtable, is an annual celebration of the community’s efforts to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage. It is a culmination of the week-long Biodiversity Week to commemorate the International Day for Biological Diversity, and aims to deepen appreciation and build stronger ownership of our rich biodiversity among Singaporeans. This year’s festival will feature interactive booths, exhibitions, talks and walks, as well as biodiversity themed art craft activities to complete from the comfort of home.
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