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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Mon 07 Mar 2005

Papers in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology - Aquatic Beetles of Singapore

Category : articles

One of the roles of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in NUS is to encourage the fundamental work of taxonomy - putting a name to a species. It does this in numerous ways, and establishing and maintaining a faunal collection from local and regional ecosystems is a critical rrole of the museum.

Besides curating and categorising faunal collections, staff also describe new species. Since there are too few taxonomists to handle the overwhleming diversity within even a country as small as Singapore, the international commmunity of taxonomists are involved in this process. Experts work within a specific faunal group but across national boundaries and help unravel the diversity of the fauna in within the distribution of the group they are concerned with.

When a researcher visits, a lot of work is initiated to facilitate a productive visit - logistics, administration and hospitality. E.g. setting up bench space and equipment, getting permission to collect in reserves (NParks to their credit, responds efficiently), organising field trips to habitats, some of which disappear in intervening decades!

One of the rewards that emerge within a couple of years is seeing the work published and become available. There are many taxonomic and biodiversity journals, and authors all over the world. Some contribute papers to The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, which is published by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. A significant advantage of this journal is the availability of its papers in pdf format for free and immediate download. This bibliography covers even the first issue, published in 1928!

To help you get a taste of the journal, papers relevant to the fauna of Singapore will be featured in Habitatnews on an irregular basis. And I begin with an interesting paper on water beetles!

Hendrich, L., Balke, M. & Yang, C.M, 2004. Aquatic Coleoptera of Singapore: species richness, ecology and conservation. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 51(1): 97-145. - link to pdf file.

Abstract. - This is the first comprehensive review of the aquatic Coleoptera, or water beetles, of Singapore. A total of 93 species are reported here. They are: Noteridae (9), Gyrinidae (9), Dytiscidae (35), Spercheidae (1), Hydrophilidae (30), Hydraenidae (3), Limnichidae (3), Curculionidae (2), and Chrysomelidae (1). The water beetle fauna of Singapore is mainly Oriental with a high percentage of Sundaic faunal elements.

Thirty species (32%) are first recorded for Singapore. However, eight species are believed to be locally extinct, and 27 species (29%) are listed as threatened. The main causes of species becoming endangered are deforestation and change of ground water level in the vicinity of springs; as well as waste water pollution and infill.

The water beetle communities of the main habitat types are briefly outlined. For each species all literature references are cited, and the distribution and ecology are described. A brief account on the conservation status and future prospects of Singapore's aquatic beetle fauna is given.

The section of conservation is extracted here:


Water beetle communities are reliable bioindicators. Presence of certain assemblages of water beetles are indicators of a healthy environment. Fortunately, increasing attention is now being paid to water beetles with respect to wetland conservation assessments. In fact, the group is now a widely accepted tool in wetland management and conservation (Foster, 1991; Balke & Hendrich, 1997; Balke et al. 1999). A worldwide Red List of endangered species has been published (IUCN 1996), and management plans for selected species are being prepared (Foster, 1996a, b). The most important areas with the highest number of stenotopic and often threatened species are discussed here:

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - One of the most valuable sites is the small forest springlet at Taban Valley - a true relic site. It contains populations of four typical forest species, Microdytes elgae, M. pasiricus, Lacconectus krikkeni and Hydraena sp. 1. For three of these species, this is the only known locality in Singapore where they exist. Many Microdytes species are rare and rather localized in general distribution in Southeast Asia (Hendrich, 1995; Hendrich & Balke, 1995; Wewalka, 1997). Thus, the Bukit Timah area must be attributed conservation value on both local and international scale (Balke & Hendrich, 1997; Balke et al., 1999). At the local level, the site should be considered as being a high potential source from which other suitable adequate Singapore sites could be re-colonized, assuming that vital populations could be maintained at Bukit Timah over longer periods of time. In fact, the above mentioned species are biodiversity indicators, and their protection will save many other yet unmapped species too.

With respect to management of the area, strategies to prevent further draining of the Bukit Timah sites must be observed as expressed by Briffet (1990). Fumigation of the reserve's edges should be minimized.

Nee Soon Swamp Forest - The primary freshwater swamp with a rich vegetation structure contains a species-rich assemblage of Hydrovatus. Species of this genus are typical inhabitants of semi-exposed to exposed sedge swamp sites and can be found in a wide variety of habitats, even in an open area such as Kent Ridge Park. However, a species-rich assemblage like the one at Nee Soon, with at least six species, can only be found in primary environments for reasons not yet fully understood. One of these species (H. saundersi) has not been collected from localities other than Nee Soon Swamp Forest, and is a threatened species in Singapore. This is also true for some of other species (e.g., Copelatus minutissimus, Chasmogenus abnormalis, Enochrus icterus) collected in small temporary puddles in the area and it is notable that the populations of most Hydrovatus species appear vital.

The Gyrindae, or whirligig beetles, Orectochilus andamanicus, O. corniger ssp. and O. spinosus, were all found in the well shaded streams in the Central Catchment swamp forest, mainly distributed in the Nee Soon area. Orectochilus andamanicus is a very rare and threatened species in Singapore. Only one to two specimens per site have been collected from the bigger streams. It seems to be a very rare species distributed from India to Peninsular Malaysia (P. Mazzoldi per. comm.).

No doubt Nee Soon Swamp Forest is the most important site which deserves our full attention. Additional fieldwork will surely reveal many more species of interest. However, any lowering of the groundwater level would be disastrous to the swamp forest species. Management strategies should take into consideration the creation of small water holes in the forest which may serve as new habitats for the rare and localized Copelatus and Lacconectus species.

To maintain the diversity presently observed, the main tasks to be achieved are: (1) strict protection of sites already identified as valuable, (2) the creation of new habitats in the remaining forested areas and (3) establishing dispersal routes for animals to allow a faunal interchange between different wetland areas and forests.

Posted at 8:45AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news