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Author/Editor:
N. Sivasothi,
a.k.a. Otterman,
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.


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Sat 13 Apr 2013

Is the Sexy Island Wild? Let Neil Humphreys convince you, Channel News Asia, 8.30pm tonight!

Category : tvradio

Against the backdrop of disappearing habitats in Singapore have been attempts to nurture the little that is left. And there is plenty to care about. Ignorance of this heritage inhibits better protection, management and quite simply, the joy of living in a tropical island. Thus a battle naturalists are perpetually engaged in is introducing Singaporeans to an open secret - the wild places and their inhabitants which still inhabit this island.

Singapore's best selling author Neil Humpreys has embedded his books with these secrets - he wandered the island on his own, sought the help of local naturalists and explored various places feverishly - considerable effort is invested in order to write humorously! So the mangrove hideouts Mat Selamat explored were scrutinised by Neil for his book, "Return to a Sexy Island".

So wild places have a secret weapon, in the form of Neil Humphreys. And he's in action on television in "Return to a Sexy Island", the television series based on his latest best seller - Channel News Asia on Saturdays at 8.30pm. Tell your friends who think we're all concrete, glass and steel! There is something worth protecting after all.

Posted at 3:59AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 05 Apr 2013

"Beach Forest Species and Mangrove Associates in the Philippines (2012)" - A book review by Lawrence M. Liao

Category : books

Lawrence Liao is a seaweed expert who helped many of us with their taxonomy and that of seagrass identities during our Chek Jawa surveys. He wrote to inform me of this lovely book published in December 2012 for which he penned this review, which I reproduce here.

Certainly something our mangrove enthusiasts will enjoy. Thanks Lawrence!

Beach Forest Species and Mangrove Associates in the Philippines. By Jurgenne H. Primavera and Resurreccion B. Sadaba. SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, Tigbauan, Iloilo, ISBN 978-971-9931-01-0, paperback, 28 cm., vii+154 pages. Order inquiries should be directed to the first author using this address: Jurgenne Primavera

Primavera and Sadaba cover

Filipinos have had an ongoing romance with the coastlines of their islands. The lush beach forests dotting these coasts contain unique vegetation that adjust equally well to the challenges of the salty soil and warm tropical winds. For centuries, beach forests have provided shelter from the strong typhoon winds. The coastal plains of the Philippines were among the first sites opened for human settlement and sprouting towns and cities have displaced beach forests and mangrove swamps. This love-hate relationship between man and nature is evidenced by the many towns named after beach forest elements such as talisay, pandan, balibago and so on.

Beach Forest Species and Mangrove Associates in the Philippines is the latest contribution of the tandem of Jurgenne Primavera and Rex Sadaba who eight years earlier published the highly acclaimed Handbook of the Mangroves of the Philippines - Panay.

This latest work follows in the fine tradition of scholarship, relevance, utility and readability set by the authors in their previous work. It is easy-to-read scientific exposition, economic botany, environmental education and national pride rolled into one handy, colourful volume.

The topic on beach forests and mangroves has gained more relevance these days in the wake of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when beach forest and mangrove greenbelts were reported to act as life-saving buffer zones. The growing intensity and frequency of weather disturbances brought by changing global climate highlight the important role of beach forests as bio-shield for vulnerable coastal communities. Sad to say, beach forests continue to disappear due mainly to conversion into human settlements and wanton harvesting for fuel wood and medicinal plant parts.

The book is a collection of 140 species both familiar and poorly known, with ~100 treated exhaustively including scientific names, English names, local/regional names, botanical descriptions and folk uses. The plethora of information is supplemented by superb nature photography uncommon in recent Philippine publications. Many of the species are illustrated for the first time in this book. Another strength of this book is the well researched section on ethnobotany culled from original and classical literature during the authors’ library visits in five countries.

A few species of established economic importance, e.g., the coconut and sago palm, are treated more extensively by showing their multifaceted uses and the historical background of such uses.

Reading through this armchair travelogue of beach forests is both a visual feast and quenching experience for information. Some species described are veritable one-species drugstores owing to their many pharmaceutical applications. The seeds of the Chinese lantern tree reportedly contain useful as hair tonic and for making candles, with potential for biofuel production. The fibers from the sea hibiscus made into the popular Hawaiian hula grass skirts are hailed as ‘fiber par excellence.’ The abrasive leaves of the vine commonly known as hagupit in Panay are find use as sandpaper, while the colorful seeds of the wild liquorice have been implicated in murder cases in India. A 600 year old bitaug or dangcalan which probably witnessed the landing of Magellan on Agusan shores was declared the Centennial Tree during the 1998 centennial anniversary of Philippine Independence.

The book sends an urgent message about the vulnerable state of the country’s beach forests, their largely untapped ecological and economic potentials and their natural heritage value for posterity. The message rings loud and clear that indigenous species should be actively promoted for reforestation purposes instead of fast-growing alien species which often alter ecological balance.

In addition, this book gets readers to know more about these poorly understood beach forests, to spend time to commune with these endangered species even if only through the colorful pages of this volume in the comfortable confines of one’s home. This book should be found in the libraries of every village school and home. It is a wise investment towards instilling scientific literacy, environmental awareness and love of Philippine natural heritage among all citizens. The authors deserve to be warmly congratulated and encouraged to continue their worthy efforts.

Lawrence M. Liao, Ph.D.
Graduate School of Biosphere Science
Faculty of Applied Biological Sciences
Hiroshima University
1-4-4, Kagamiyama, Higashi-Hiroshima
Japan 739-8528

Posted at 1:08PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 15 Mar 2013

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: Invitation for Organisers to register and the Recruitment for Volunteer Coordinators

Category : coastalcleanup

The International Coastal Cleanup is an annual data-collecting exercise conducted in some 70 countries around the world. The progamme in Singapore (ICCS) sees some 60 organisations lead 4,000 volunteers to hit the beaches in September to collect, categorise and dispose of marine trash affecting our shores.

Participants learn the issues affecting our seas first hand and experienced Organisers take it further - they educate participants about marine life of Singapore, impacts to our oceans, examine the national and international data and grapple with the curse of single-use consumer plastic. They consider how to reduce use and disposal for recycling. Action in daily life is a powerful avenue to lead to larger scale solutions.

041iccs-lim_chu_kang_east-08sep2012[kgp]

Registration for Organisers

Registration by veteran and new Organisers alike for the 2013 programme was announced last week. See the details at the ICCS News blog.

The ICCS Otters who coordinate the programme meet on 22 Mar 2013 to begin the Site Allocation Exercise. They are a small group of dedicated people who have been volunteering with ICCS for up to a decade or more.

They conduct site recces, map locations and register organisations, liase with NEA and NParks, conduct workshops for Organisers, host the annual ICCS Lecture, collate the national data and facilitate and organise cleanups year round.

They work efficiently and try to keep individual work load to a manageable amount, balancing work and volunteering efforts. With the programme, they are efficient and responsive. Meetings and emails are kept to a minimum to prevent burn outs, and the team is able make a long-term contribution.

Recruitment for Coordinators

Every year, recruitment is conducted for Site Buddies and Site Captains and the 2013 recruitment has just been announced. This year the search is on for volunteer coordinators as well.

If this sounds like this is up your alley, see the ICCS News blog for details.


Kelly Ong, Pandan Site Captain since 2008

48iccs-chek_jawa_south-08sep2012[adinesh]
ICCS Chek Jawa South, 2012

Posted at 7:37AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 05 Mar 2013

Join us for "The Last Hurrah!" Final tours of the Raffles Museum's Public Gallery, 18-22 Mar 2013

Category : news

The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research has been located at its modern premises in the Faculty of Science only since 1986.

After 15 years, on 15th June 2001, the Public Gallery was opened and this was cause for much celebration. The museum logo of the common palm civet on a palm leaf, was unveiled that day to reflect the new emphasis on education and outreach.

Thousands came over the years, in a trickle, to the well hidden location in NUS with just the NUS Science Library for neighbours at Block S6 at Science Drive 2. Now, after 12 years of service, the Public Gallery will be closed at the end of this month. A new and larger location beckons in 2014 at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the current space is needed for the intensive work of specimen preparations.

It is already partly closed wth boxes beginning to make an appearance and many of us are tied up at work. However, veteran guides could not allow this young lady to sail off with a whimper, so we have got together to celebrate her service with a final series of tours.

Lunch time and evening tours are offered from 18th to 22 March 2013. Each session is limited to just 15 people, as the space to move around the museum is very small. With a larger space beckoning, this is one farewell that need not be tearful.

So join us, for "The Last Hurrah!"

To register, please go to tinyurl.com/rmbr-lh

Your guides: Amy Choong, Junius Soh, Joelle Lai, Kok Oi Yee, Adrian Loo, Lim Cheng Puay, Hwang Wei Song, , Xu Weiting, Fung Tze Kwan Kok Oi Yee, Airani S, Marcus Chua, Anand Balan & Ivan Kwan, Alvin Wong & N. Sivasothi.

Posted at 4:06AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 06 Feb 2013

MND's "Land Use Beyond 2030" map of Singapore

Category : map

This is the map published in the Ministry of National Development's "A high quality living environment for all Singaporeans" released on 31 Jan 2013. The maps available online are small, but you can download the pdf from the MND webpage to examine larger views at: mnd.gov.sg/landuseplan.

Below is a screen grab of the pdf at 1530 by 973 pixels. Note that this land use map, like others issued in Master Plans in the past illustrate a "likely profile" of land use allocation and may not be definitive in every detail. Some reserve land patches have remained so over decades. Compare this with the URA 2001 Concept Plan map.

However, the map does provide some indication of intended outcomes and should be examined by every interested naturalist.

Ria Tan of WildSingapore examined the map and on her blog, Wild Shores of Singapore immediately queried "What shores will Singapore lose in 7-million population plan?"

Posted at 10:03AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 04 Feb 2013

MRT through the Nature Reserve: "the line goes 'through' primary forest and good secondary forest."

Category : news

Two weeks ago, LTA announced that they would build “two new rail lines and three new extensions by 2030″. Of the proposed new lines, the 50km Cross Island Line (CRL) was the cause of considerable concern, as it would cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and I posted a couple of maps for scrutiny [see maps in link].

I sent local naturalist and GIS-geek Tony O'Dempsey the Land Transport Authority's map for a second opinion about the placement of the line. I was interested to see the type of forest we knew to be present which the line would cut through.

Tony replied shortly after, saying, "I georeferenced that LTA map and co-registered it with this satellite image. The line goes 'through' primary forest and good secondary forest."

Tunnelling or overhead, construction is not a neat business. And if it will occur in our nature reserves, the integrity of an already impacted forest will be further challenged.

Posted at 11:15AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 04 Feb 2013

Sat 09 Feb 2013: 7.00am - The Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk

Category : heritage

The Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Sat 09 Feb 2013: 7.00am - 12.00pm

With the Raffles Museum Toddycats,
volunteers of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research,
Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, NUS
In collaboration with the National Archives of Singapore, NHB

It is 13th February 1942, the Japanese troops which have stormed through Malaya have invaded Singapore.

Approaching Singapore City from the west, a seasoned Japanese army is forced to engage the small force of the Malay Regiment on the high ground of Pasir Panjang Ridge.

A fierce battle ensues amidst the confusion from the aerial bombardement, burning fuel, loss of communications and the early deaths of senior officers trying to keep their men coordinated.

The soldiers of the Malay Regiment battle on for nearly two days and a company is wiped almost to the last man by the numerically superior Japanese on the eve of Chinese New Year.

The next day, on 15th of February, 1942, General Percival marches down Bukit Timah Road to surrender to General Yamashita of the Japanese Imperial Army at the Ford Factory.

The National University of Singapore is built on parts of old battle ground and still contains a WWII military outpost that strategically oversees Jurong, Bukit Timah and Singapore City. In 1954, the ridge was renamed 'Kent Ridge,' and the old stone marker commemorating this event can still be seen today.

The accounts of the battle on Kent Ridge left a strong impression on the Pasir Panjang Heritage Guides, and thus we commemorate the Malay Regiment's defense of the ridge every year. We will share with you stories about the Battle of Pasir Panjang, the geography, history and the flora and fauna of the area that first drew us to explore the ridge decades ago and how the ridge got its name.

Our route takes us through the National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge Road, The Gap and Kent Ridge Park. We end at Reflections of Bukit Chandu, which is managed by the National Archives of the National Heritage Board.

Everyone is welcome if you can wake up early enough and are physically fit enough to walk some 5km at a moderately quick pace and climb some stairs. The guides may carry on walking to Harbour Front for lunch if its not too hot; feel free to join us.

Registration

  • Please register so we have an idea of numbers, your contact and emergency contact and are able to contact you about last minute updates.
  • Fill in the form at: http://tinyurl.com/bpp-2013
  • Meet us at the University Cultural Centre at 7.00am [map: http://tinyurl.com/map-nusucc]
  • This is a five hour walk and it can be hot in parts so please bring at least one litre of water and some sandwiches or snacks. It can always rain so please being an umbrella.

Links

Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk, 13 Feb 2011
To explore the map, visit Google Maps

Posted at 12:32AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 01 Feb 2013

Sat 23 Feb 2013: 1.30pm - Darwin Day 2013 @ Woodlands Library: evolution of flowers, wildlife of Singapore and Darwin's discoveries

Category : talks

Darwin Day 2013 features lively and humorous speakers extolling the evolution of flowers, wildlife secrets of Singapore and Darwin's discoveries. There will also be storytelling, games and craft fun for children. Organised by the Humanist Society in collaboration with National Library Board.

Saturday, 23 February 2013: 1.30pm - 3.30pm

Admission is free at the Woodlands Regional Library, 900 South Woodlands Drive  Woodlands Civic Centre #01-03, Singapore 730900 (take the MRT to NS9 Woodlands).

Visit the Humanist Society webpage to RSVP or for further details.

Posted at 9:50AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 23 Jan 2013

"Reducing Our Environmental Impact Hackathon", 25 - 27 Jan 2013 @ U Town

Category : events

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT HACKATHON 2013

"UP Singapore, WWF's Earth Hour and NUS Entrepreneurship Centre (a division of NUS Enterprise) will host the "Reducing Our Environmental Impact Hackathon" from 25th to 27th Jan 2013.

Tackling the issue of Energy Conservation and Efficiency, the Hackathon will bring together a broad spectrum of scientists, architects, sustainability experts, economists, government researchers, policy makers, design thinkers, developers, programmers, and creatives who want to create real ways to help people better protect our environment.

This hackathon is supported by WWF, National Environment Agency, Infocomm Development Authority and Economic Development Board."

The central themes are:

  • I WILL, WILL YOU? – Solutions to drive behavioural change and quantify the impact of individual actions, with the potential to be adopted as Earth Hour’s flagship application.
  • SMART CHOICES – Test out the latest technology to help individuals and businesses optimise energy usage and reduce their environmental impact.
  • CITY SOLUTIONS – Tackle environmental challenges with creative solutions that help Singapore to become ‘A City in a Garden’."

To find out ore, see upsingapore.com and sign-up at eventbrite.com

Posted at 1:49PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 22 Jan 2013

LTA's proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) cuts through the Central Catchment Forest Reserve

Category : news

Last Thursday, LTA unveiled “Two new rail lines and three new extensions by 2030″. This significant announcement doubles the rail network from 178km to 360 km by 2030, putting some 80% of households within a 10-minute walk of a rail station.

LTA: Rail Network Expansions, announced 17 Jan 2013
Map of Rail Network Expansions, announced 17 Jan 2013

Of these proposed new lines, the 50km Cross Island Line (CRL) was the biggest surprise, and also of greatest concern. The CRL begins in Changi and moves westwards through Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming and through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast and Jurong Industrial Estate.

LTA Cross Island Line
Map of Cross Island Line released by LTA, 17 Jan 2013

Singapore still has a mosaic of small secondary forest patches. The largest of these are hemmed in to five major areas - the Western Catchment (military use), Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR), Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and the islands of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong (military use). Of these, the oldest patches and some of the least impacted forest areas are found in BTNR and CCNR, the green heart of Singapore.

Map of Singapore showing locations of major forest fragments (Map prep by Marcus Chua)
Map of Singapore showing locations of major forest fragments (map by Marcus Chua)

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a rectangular area in the centre of Singapore island bound by four roads: Mandai Road in the north Upper Thomson Road in the east, Lornie Road in the south and Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) in the west. This reserve encloses four large reservoirs - MacRitchie Reservoir in the south, Upper Peirce Reservoir and Lower Peirce Reservoir in the central west and east respectively and Upper Seletar Reservoir in the north.

NParks - BTNR and CCNR
Map of BTNR and CCNR from National Parks Board webpage

Adjacent to CCNR in the south west is the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Isolated from the larger CCNR since 1986 by the BKE, the construction of an EcoLink was announced in 2009 to link BTNR with CCNR once again later this year.

Shortly after the LTA announcement about the new rail lines last week, singeo provided a Google Earth overlay of the LTA map which I downloaded and examined.

CRL, BTNR and CCNR
The CRL (in red) through southern CCNR

Route of LTAs proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve
Route of LTA's proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) through the
Central Catchment Nature Reserve; click image for larger view.
Google Earth overlay by singeo and Google Earth placemarkers by chionh

This line will cause concern amongst local naturalists, who will have to examine the issue and ask questions.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve are precious spaces. These are being carefully managed to cope with preservation of biodiversity for future generations, and we are also the planet's custodian for rare endemic species found nowhere else in the world.

Understandably, the forest is under pressure for recreational use. As in many other cities, Singaporeans seek relief from the confines of our urban space in the forest. Over the years the mountain bike community has grown, as have the number of trail runners and hikers. Outdoor education of our students is increasingly understood to be important.

Just last week, DBS Vickers suggested the expected Population White Paper to be unveiled by government will raise the population target of Singapore to 7 million [link]

This will bring further pressure to our heavily used forests. As an open ecosystem, man's activities in one area will affect other parts, often in ways we do not entirely understand.

Thus when I examined the map, some immediate, obvious questions came to mind. If the CRL is an underground line, could we mitigate impact during and after construction? The questions are,

  • What sort of forest is in the area? Is it former plantations, old secondary or primary forests? What sort of animal life use these areas?
  • Which specific parts would have to be cleared for construction and for maintenance?
  • What impact does the construction of an underground MRT line have above ground?
  • How will underground drilling affect the hydrology of the surrounding area?
  • How will underground aquifers be affected and will headwaters of our delicate freshwater stream ecosystems be affected?
  • Will the effects underground tunnelling be expressed downstream in any way?
  • After construction, what impact would be forest be subjected to for tunnel maintenance?
  • What have we learnt about impact to geography, hydrology and geology from the construction of other MRT lines?

A close examination of the issues would be helpful and there is much to ask and understand. This sounds like a proposal for an honours thesis!

Posted at 5:24AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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