NParks continued to uplift standards across the landscape and animal industries and to leverage science and technology in our work, ranging from biodiversity conservation to park and greenery management and research.
There are currently more than 100 ongoing research projects under the NParks Science and Technology Masterplan.
One such initiative is the Flora of Singapore project, which seeks to build a complete profile of Singapore’s forests and plant diversity through a variety of genomic, taxonomic and ecological studies. NParks has carried out the genomic sequencing of 500 plant species in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the findings will inform flora conservation efforts by contributing to the understanding of the full range of plant diversity in Singapore and the status of the different plant populations here.
In the past year, NParks has led the publishing of nine plant, fungal and algae species in Singapore as new records or rediscoveries. These include a liverwort species that is new to science (Gaolejeunea hoi) in a genus previously only known from China; a new record of the first and only known freshwater red algae species in Singapore (Visia cylindrocellularis); as well as the rediscovery of an orchid (Hetaeria oblongifolia) that has not been sighted for over 120 years.
While Visia cylindrocellularis was thought to only exist in West Malaysia, the discovery of the freshwater algae in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve suggests its distribution is not as restricted as initially thought.
The Hetaeria oblongifolia was last collected in 1897 before its recent rediscovery in Tengah Forest. The orchid will now be propagated and successful species will be planted into our nature reserves and other green spaces.
Learn more about Therapeutic Gardens
Research done under the Marine Climate Change Science programme helps develop solutions to address challenges faced by the coastal and marine environment arising from climate change. These include sea level rise, increasing sea surface temperatures, and extreme storm events.
City in Nature is a new research vertical formed under the Cities of Tomorrow R&D Programmes in Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2021. Led by NParks, it seeks to provide a scientific foundation for Singapore’s transformation into a City in Nature, in alignment with the national push to create a greener, more liveable and sustainable home for residents. The research vertical will build on existing R&D efforts in greenery and biodiversity to strengthen Singapore’s ecological and climate resilience, as well as inform nature-based solutions for social resilience.
NParks continues to be the implementing agency for the Marine Climate Change Science programme (MCCS), a S$25 million research funding initiative supported under the national Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan. The multidisciplinary MCCS programme seeks to develop scientific evidence-based interventions to address the impact of climate change on Singapore’s marine environment and ecosystems.
NParks is working with members of the MCCS programme to develop a series of research plans in Blue Carbon Science, Eco-Engineering, Ecological Resilience, Climate Impact Science, and Community- Driven Climate Resilience Planning. The plans will guide upcoming research efforts in these areas.
Several evidence-based research studies conducted by NParks with research partners found that urban nature contributes positively to the health and well-being of residents. In one study conducted in collaboration with the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in the National University of Singapore (NUS), it was found that viewing landscapes in Therapeutic Gardens could provide support for treating depression. The findings pave the way for developing therapeutic landscapes, which can function as a self-care practice for citizens to maintain their mental well-being.
New Therapeutic Gardens were opened in Pasir Ris Park and Bedok Reservoir Park, keeping NParks on track to establish 30 such gardens across the island by 2030. To complement these gardens, seven therapeutic horticulture nodes were successfully set up to benefit patients and residents of medical facilities such as Dover Park Hospice and Geylang East Home for the Aged.
Another study with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health found that participants who visited parks during the day were less stressed on the same evening than those who did not visit parks.
Another study found that there was heightened demand for cultural ecosystem services provided by urban green spaces like parks and nature areas in Singapore during the pandemic, with an increased appreciation for less manicured urban green spaces. This validates the central role that parks play in people’s lives, especially during the pandemic.
The last study, which compared participants of the Gardening with Edibles programme with a general online community, found that the mental resilience of those who gardened was statistically significantly higher. Further analysis on the gardening group showed that more than one hour of weekly gardening time was associated with better scores.
To extend the positive effects of gardening to students, NParks introduced its Garden in a Classroom Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Education’s UPLIFT initiative. This integrates social-emotional learning with gardening-related activities. Close to 70 workshops were held, reaching out to 1,200 students. Surveys to measure psychological wellbeing found that participants overwhelmingly benefited from gardening.
The findings are among the first few studies done globally that demonstrate the relative importance of different types of urban nature, including their role during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While there is universal agreement that urban nature provides a suite of benefits to people, NParks and partners conducted research to better understand the benefits of different forms of urban nature, and how landscape design can be used more effectively.
NParks is working with NUS to develop an acoustic monitoring system to improve the detection of marine megafauna in their underwater habitats. Marine megafauna such as dolphins, dugongs and sharks play an important ecological role as apex predators or habitat modifiers and are thus good indicators of habitat health.
Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) technology is used to monitor soniferous animals such as dolphins. Through this project, NParks and NUS will also explore modifying a PAM system that can be used to detect and locate non-soniferous animals in local waters. Looking ahead, this data will facilitate regional management strategies and conservation of native megafauna, especially by protecting areas frequently visited by these animals.
As efforts to transform Singapore into a City in Nature gather steam, the landscape workforce has also been adopting higher-level skills in greenery and landscape management. In September 2021, NParks organised a webinar on Landscape Design for our City in Nature for members of the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects to share knowledge of the important role of landscape design in the restoration and interconnection of habitats.
In the past year, NParks rolled out 10 new Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) courses that reference the Skills Framework for Landscape, as well as two new non-WSQ certification programmes in Basic Plant Recognition and Field Epidemiology. A total of 10 new workshops and webinars were also conducted to upskill the industry.
During the webinar on Landscape Design, participants learnt how green corridors, such as (01) this Nature Way at Canberra Link, help connect areas of high biodiversity to urban communities. They also learnt how native plants, like (02) the critically endangered Kopsia singapurensis, have been introduced to our streets and green spaces to enhance biodiversity.
The Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) exceeded its target of 4,000 training places for FY 2021, with more than 1,000 training and assessment places for WSQ programmes and more than 3,500 training places for non-WSQ programmes. CUGE will continue as the sole Continuing Education and Training Centre for the landscape sector after being reappointed by SkillsFuture Singapore for a three-year period starting 1 August 2021.
Learn how Nature Ways are enhanced with native trees and flowering plants
As part of efforts to strengthen biosurveillance and resilience of Singapore’s animal health system, AVS is leveraging technology to enhance the management of animal diseases that may pose threats to human and animal health. Controls implemented at pre-border, border and post-border stages help to detect, contain, and manage diseases early.
To boost surveillance capabilities, AVS is employing the use of in-ship vessel CCTVs with live transmission and drones fitted with thermal cameras to inspect imported pigs before they are cleared for entry into Singapore. AVS is also building up an animal health information system that integrates animal health-related data, licensing, and inspection records. This information will be incorporated into NParks’ overall Geographic Information System platform, MAVEN II, allowing for integrated data analysis so as to better anticipate and manage biosecurity risks.
To strengthen our ability to prevent infectious diseases from entering Singapore, AVS inspects imported pigs before they are cleared for entry into Singapore. This is done using in-ship vessel CCTVs with live transmission and drones fitted with thermal cameras.
The Animal Quarantine Centre, opened in November 2021, leverages technologies to better safeguard animal health and welfare. This includes employing technology that will detect potential pathogens in the kennel and cattery environment, rapid point-of-care diagnostic test kits as well as CCTVs to monitor the conditions of the animals in their kennels or catteries. The Centre also expands AVS’ quarantine management system to manage the operations of all other quarantine facilities across Singapore including those designated for imported wildlife, horses and laboratory animals.
AVS is employing the use of smart collar tags for animals eligible for home quarantine, making Singapore one of the first countries to do so. Some animals, such as those with pre-existing medical conditions that require around-the-clock care by their owners, can serve their post-arrival quarantine at home. Taken together, these enable AVS to react expeditiously if there is a disease outbreak.
Undergirding this biosurveillance system is the Centre for Animal & Veterinary Sciences, which houses animal health laboratories equipped with advanced diagnostic capabilities to identify animal and zoonotic diseases and sequence the genome of the disease agents. Staffed by a multidisciplinary team including veterinarians, animal health inspectors and laboratory scientists, this biosurveillance system has kept Singapore’s rabies-free status since 1953 and continues to ensure the nation is free from other major transboundary animal diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, African Swine Fever, Footand- Mouth Disease and African Horse Sickness.
NParks’ expertise is recognised nationally and stretches beyond our borders. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, close collaborations with the Mandai Wildlife Group enabled nine lions infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, to be nursed back to health. Staff also joined their peers in Thailand to research and deduce solutions to combat the spread of the fatal African Horse Disease.
Pet owners can use the segregated dog runs at the Animal Quarantine Centre to spend time with their dogs outdoors while socially distanced from other animals, to reduce the risk of diseases being spread.
NParks has been engaging veterinarians, vet paraprofessionals and users of vet services to better understand the key challenges faced by the sector, and to identify areas for growth and development. Focus group discussions have highlighted the need to better define the scope of veterinary activities and to recognise the critical role of veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals. They also emphasised the importance of upholding professional standards in the veterinary sector, along with the need to encourage continuing education in the veterinary profession. One new initiative being explored is the formation of a veterinary professional body to advance the standards and practices for the sector.
In line with the development of standards for the veterinary industry and the national initiatives to stem the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), AVS launched the Guidelines for the Prudent Use of Antimicrobials in Companion Animals in November 2021. These guidelines were developed by a working group comprising veterinary professionals from both AVS and Singapore Veterinary Association (SVA), and include inputs from veterinary species experts.
The guidelines serve as a resource for veterinary professionals to supplement clinical decision making on the appropriate use of antimicrobials in companion animals, and raise awareness and understanding of AMR locally.
In 2020, SVA worked with AVS to develop the Singapore Vaccination Guidelines for Dogs and Cats to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination in safeguarding animal health and combating AMR.
Over the years, the veterinary community has played an important role in safeguarding public health. Vets assist with disease control efforts, help to protect Singapore against zoonotic viruses and care for our companion animals, as well as educate pet owners on responsible pet ownership.
Over the past year, NParks was involved in several multistakeholder initiatives in the areas of biodiversity and sustainability. A key collaboration was the consultative effort with international stakeholders and experts to develop an updated version of the Singapore Index (SI) on Cities’ Biodiversity.
The SI was developed to help cities worldwide evaluate and monitor the progress of their biodiversity conservation efforts over time. Taking into consideration the escalating challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, the updated index added new indicators for habitat restoration, biodiversity and health, climate change, nature-based solutions, and natural capital assessment, amongst others.
Visitors to the Gold Award-winning Singapore Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo were welcomed by a display highlighting our City in Nature vision and treated to a showcase of innovations used to manage Singapore’s greenery. These included tree inspection microdrones and climbing robot prototypes that traverse vertical green walls to monitor plant health and collect environmental data. NParks worked closely with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and architecture studio WOHA to conceptualise the design and plant selection for the event held from October 2021 to March 2022 in Dubai.
The Singapore Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo showcased to the world what it means for Singapore to be a City in Nature. Visitors admired native plants and flowers growing on the walls of the pavilion, simulating the environment of a tropical rainforest.
In September 2021, NParks and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity co-organised a webinar on therapeutic horticulture. Some 130 participants, including officials from the environment and health sectors of ASEAN member states, learnt from subject matter experts from academia and the industry who shared perspectives on the role and implementation of green spaces as venues for therapeutic horticulture in cities. The capacity-building event was supported by the European Union.
At the 7th World Cities Summit held virtually in June 2021, attendees experienced Singapore through a series of virtual site visits to locations such as Tanjong Pagar and Jurong Lake Gardens, where they learnt about the various smart technologies and sustainability initiatives being trialled there. Over 4,700 delegates from 556 cities participated remotely.
To celebrate outstanding greenery and biophilic design, 27 developments were awarded the Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework (LEAF) certification by NParks in the assessment year for 2020. To achieve this recognition, the projects were evaluated on various factors with emphasis placed on ecology, biophilic design and park management. In all, 58 local public and private developments have received the LEAF certification since its launch in 2013.
View a virtual tour of Jurong Lake Gardens
Jurong Lake Gardens was awarded the LEAF Award (Platinum) and the ABC Waters Certification (Gold) for its integration of greenery with scenic waterscapes and display of innovative design, such as in Clusia Cove, a children’s water play area which together with the nearby eco-pond, share a closed-loop water cleansing system. Water from the water playground enters the eco-pond that simulates a freshwater wetland ecosystem. Here it is filtered and cleansed by the sand beds and plants in the pond, before being channelled back into the children’s playground.
Jurong Lake Gardens was also recognised by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Asia Pacific where it picked up a 2021 Award for Excellence for outstanding development and efforts in promoting environmental sustainability, stewardship and resilience that have positively impacted the community. The Gardens won from a pool of 79 nominees assessed by a jury of real estate leaders from different countries. The ULI highlights outstanding urban development projects in the private, public and non-profit sectors located in Asia Pacific.
Jurong Lake Gardens has received several awards since its opening. This past year, it was recognised with the LEAF Award (Platinum) and the ABC Waters Certification (Gold) award as well as the 2021 Award for Excellence from the Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific.
Hort Champs are staff who participate in workshops and field trips and then share this knowledge with other staff or visitors. Workshops were held on topics such as the cultivation of heritage edible plants, introduction to medicinal and toxic plants and the identification of mangrove trees.
The Hort Champs also conducted the basics of growing edibles indoors and in high-rise settings. To overcome restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hort Champs led virtual tours for staff to learn more about Heritage Trees as well as native species found in our green spaces. Such exchanges remain integral in facilitating knowledge flow and learning amongst staff within the organisation.
In FY 2021, NParks awarded three undergraduate scholarships to external candidates and three postgraduate scholarships to staff to grow the talent pool in Singapore. To celebrate the work done to realise our vision of becoming a City in Nature, over 1,000 staff attended the virtual NParks Staff Conference held on 5 August 2021. This was a good opportunity for staff to better understand the role they play towards enhancing Singapore’s resilience to climate change, as well as how digitialisation initiatives can help them work more efficiently.