Plant Systematics Lab member Chong Kwek Yan presented the results of his doctoral research project earlier this month and was featured the Straits Times and Today last Saurday!
Text to ST article
Natural greenery ‘key to diverse wildlife’ – Grace Chua
Species in cultivated green areas do not differ much from site to site: Researcher
NOT all green areas in Singapore are created equal – and, for the first time, researchers here are able to measure how unequal they are.
Some 47 per cent of the island state’s land area is under green cover – meaning any sort of plant life, from manicured lawns to wild forests.
But only about half of that is “natural”, meaning scrubland, forest or other greenery that has been allowed to spring up on its own, said National University of Singapore biology doctoral student Chong Kwek Yan, 29.
Mr Chong’s doctoral research, presented last week, confirmed what many intuitively suspect: That while cultivated green areas have a fairly wide range of bird and butterfly species, the collection of species does not differ much from site to site.
By contrast, one natural site may have a very different set of species from another.
“In Singapore, cultivated greenery is currently not a good substitute for natural greenery,” said Mr Chong.
But much of this natural greenery is made up of fragments of wild vegetation outside nature reserves, and could succumb to development as Singapore’s population grows, he added.
Mr Chong and his colleagues surveyed 42 sites from Tampines to Tuas. These were classed as low greenery, high cultivated greenery or high natural greenery areas, based on the amount and type of green cover.
The team suggested that planners either plant trees in cultivated areas or try to preserve big trees in places being developed, as these serve as a haven for species.
“We need to explicitly plan for natural greenery in our built-up environment if we are to maintain a diverse urban wildlife,” said Associate Professor Hugh Tan, Mr Chong’s thesis supervisor.
The work was funded by the Ministry of National Development’s research fund for the built environment, and aims to develop frameworks for greenery planning in high-density cities.
Such studies have been done in temperate cities but this is one of the first specific to Singapore’s tropical vegetation.
There are benefits to exposing urban dwellers to nature that go beyond providing shade and oxygen, said Mr Chong.
“Urban areas are where most of the world’s population will live and determine the kind of nature that the majority of the world’s population will have contact with.”
In turn, that will determine the level of public support for conservation, he added.(c) 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Limited