Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)
Well Are Human and Wildlife
Sharing 'Green' Corridors?
Clive Briffett, Lily Kong, Belinda Yuen and Navjot Sodhi of the National University of Singapore share the preliminary findings of their research into the Park Connector System, which is the beginning of 'networking nature' in Singapore. All photos by Clive Briffett.
This (the government says), is addressing the need to 'enhance the quality of life in urban Singapore', a planning objective of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, as outlined in their Revised Concept Plan of 1991.
What the Park Connector System provides are 'links' along which people can cycle, jog, walk, exercise or simply watch nature. How well these 'green' corridors serve our urbanised people and also nature was (and still is), the subject of an ongoing survey by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) led by NSS stalwart Clive Briffett. The researchers are Lily Kong, Belinda Yuen and Navjot Sodhi and their studies cover 10 different linear habitats. In all 10 of the sites, they are assessing how birds use the corridors and up to five of these sites are also being monitored.
To get a flavour of what this research involves, each researcher states his/her expertise and interest, and here present their personal comments.
"People may not use the ' Corridor'
but they like knowing it is THERE!
says Lily Kong
Social and Cultural geographer, Geography Department
Lily also found that many of those who do use nature areas appreciate the presence of birds, butterflies and small mammals (like squirrels and monkeys). But they do not want to encounter rats or snakes. These users of green corridors are also concerned about adequate lighting, seating, landscaping (they appreciate ponds as part of the natural landscape) and toilet facilities. They also said they like having eating facilities conveniently sited near nature areas. Bringing a picnic basket and mats do not seem to be something that occurs to most spoilt Singaporeans!
"Tree Huggingyes it happens,
along with bird- and butterfly-watching"
Findings of Belinda Yuen
Town planner, School of Building and Estate Management
It doesn't happen often, but Belinda Yuen, researching into who uses the corridors and how they use them, came across the odd person who named tree hugging as one of the activities they indulged in. The tree hugger is also likely to be a person who admires birds and butterflies. (Why do people hug trees? If you've read the runaway best-seller The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, you'd believe that old trees not only make life-giving oxygen but they have tremendous energy and hugging a tree can be therapeutic when one is feeling down.)
But of course most people use the corridors for more mundane activities such as jogging, walking, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading and walking the child or dog. Then there are those who use the corridors for tai chi, to fly kites, model planes, fish and even to motorscoot along. But the most frequent users are very likely those who say they use it as a "convenient route" to get to work or school.
Then, there are still others who go there simply to relax and enjoy the green views. These are most likely to be above 40-years-olds. Most prominent are the retirees or older housewives, who have more leisure time. A contrast to the junior patrons of corridors, that is, the children. They are "usually the most deviant of users" as they have been seen to chase lizards, birds and butterflies and trap spiders, ants and stick insectsdeplorable activities. But a couple of such 'deviant' users of nature areas grew up to become passionate nature conservationists. They include Lim Kim Seng and Ho Hua Chew. So, there is hope for these children! But if there is no exposure to nature, then fear is the dominant emotion that urbanities experience when they find themselves in the forest.
The peak periods of use of these corridors on weekdays tend to be early morning, shortly before dawn and evening. By 10am very few people are about these places. But when the sun is low, from about 5pm onwards, the corridors start filling up with people again. On weekends there are many more users in the afternoonthis is when families congregate with their kites and bikes.
"How Natural and Built environments
can be designed to successfully interact"
That's the job of Clive Briffett
Nature Environmentalist and Building Professional
A keen birder, Clive conducts bird surveys in 10 locations every month, throughout the year. Besides this he has assisted in a site-based nature survey to discover what users know, appreciate and like about nature. "Limited results so far suggest that there is an underlying but not a necessarily very knowledgeable interest in nature," is Clive's cautious conclusion. In addition, he says, "There is a desire to obtain more information on nature and to support the creation of more interesting and diverse habitats that would attract wildlife."
Clive is happy to note that in locations where there is "specific interpretative information on nature, such as the mangroves at Pasir Ris Park and the marsh garden at the West Coast Park, these places are well used and appreciated".
But he notes with bemusement that some facilities are being misusedpond platforms are used for fishing while bird hides are sometimes used by the amorous as lovers retreats. "My students are learning many facts of life during their survey visits," he smiles.
The next stage: How close a human can get to a bird?
How close can a human get to a bird before it flies off? This is what Clive intends to find out with techniques he plans to devise. He also wants to study how the normal activities of birds are affected by the presence of humans and assess how much trampling of grass results in soil erosion. So far, he says, this research project has been sometimes exhausting but always very interesting and absorbing.
The main household and site user studies completed comprise a pilot scheme in Ulu Pandan Canal (an account of this has been published and is available). The main survey has started and surveys on Bishan Park and West Coast Park will be completed by September, 1997, while the survey covering Duxton Plain, a CDB location, East Coast Park, Dairy Farm Trail, Kent Ridge Park, Sime Road and Jurong Canal will be done in 1998.
Thanks to the Sponsor: The pilot study for this project was funded by a grant from the HongKong Bank Fund for Nature. The main study is being financed by the NUS. Clive Briffett and his researches express their thanks.
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