Vol 4 No 3
Welcome to our new Volunteer Committee 1998
Trail Guide to the Mangrove Boardwalk
and the guide "Endless Summer: The Story of a Seasoned Traveller"
Mangrove: A Home to the Birds
New features at the Park:
Dining Table for the Birds, New Freshwater Aquarium Exhibit and the new coin-operated
bino at the main hide
A Home for the Birds
Lim Haw Chuan and
Kenneth B.H. Er
To many, the mangrove forest has always been thought of as the dirty breeding
ground of unattractive creatures. And it does not help that many of these
mangrove areas are often covered with floating debris or have become dumping
grounds for bulk goods.
However, there are many
other things that you may not know about the forests. For example, they provide
us with one of our favourite desserts—the attap
seed (from the Nypa palm, left). The mangroves are
also a valuable source of timber for boat-building and firewood, and they are
a prime breeding ground for prawns.
Its usefulness aside, the mangrove forest has always been an integral part of
the natural heritage of Singapore. In pre-settlement period, it covered 13%
of the forested area of Singapore. Due to modern development, this has been
reduced to a mere 488 hectares by 1993. This dramatic reduction has caused
many plant species to go extinct (e.g., the epiphytic orchids) while others
are still at risk (e.g., some Sonneratia sp). Of the 71 bird species that are known to occur
in the mangrove forest, 11 are extinct while a further 12 are at risk.
Given the present state of affairs for the mangrove forest, Sungei Buloh Nature Park (SBNP)
presents an excellent opportunity for conservation. Out of the 87 hectares in
SBNP, approximately 29 hectares are mangrove forests. 26 true mangrove plants
species can be found in the forest fragments in SBNP and 126 species of birds
had been recorded at the time when the proposal for its conservation came
out. With such a unique opportunity at hand, it is important to maximise the
forest potential as a sanctuary of birds.
To a community of birds,
its habitat is invariably one of the important factor
that determines its nature. A habitat can be described in terms of landscape
(size, shape, etc), vegetative structure
(description of the life form, height and density of plants found) and
floristics (plant species composition). All three factors can have
significant influence on what type of bird community you can find in a
For example, a large patch of forest where there is a diversity of plants is
more likely to have a healthy and diverse bird community. The large area
ensures that even if birds in some areas have suffered due to bad weather or
breeding failure, the remaining birds or the birds from other parts can
easily re-colonise the forest. The diversity in plants means that there is a diversity in resources that birds need, such as space,
food and nest sites. A large forest also means that there is more space for
bird species that prefer the interior environment (e.g., the Greater Flameback and the Oriental White-eye) and species that
require a large area (e.g., some owls).
It is with this in mind that we are currently conducting research studies to
identify the habitat and landscape factors that will contribute most to bird
diversity in the mangrove fragments found in the Park. In addition, we are
also looking into differentiating groups of birds based on what they eat and
what taxonomy groups they belong to. The information collected can then be
turned into management guidelines.