Country Profiles

Singapore - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Singapore is a tropical island city-state with a land area of about 710 km2, consisting of one main island and about 60 smaller offshore islands. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world yet harbours both terrestrial and marine native biodiversity. Rich biodiversity can be found within Singapore’s 22 nature sites, which include 4 Nature Reserves and 18 Nature Areas. All 4 Nature Reserves cover 33.26 km2 or about 4.7% of Singapore’s total land area. The forests of Singapore are not exploited commercially for timber and there is no indigenous people dependent on the forests for subsistence. A large proportion of the current terrestrial vegetation consists of secondary forests, as much of the primary forest cover was lost during the 19th century. Indeed, only 2.8 km2 of primary forest remains. In addition to natural ecosystems, managed habitats such as public parks, park connectors, roadside plantings and reservoir parks also support considerable biodiversity, which underscores Singapore’s commitment towards creating a clean, green and blue living environment. Over the past 20 years, Singapore’s green cover has increased from 36% to 47% of the total land area. However, Singapore’s managed habitats comprise relatively high populations of non-native species.

Comprehensive surveys of the 2 Nature Reserves have recorded an estimated 1,190 species of vascular plant species in these primary forest fragments, which provide refuge to 44 species of mammals, 207 species of birds, 72 species of reptiles, 25 species of amphibians, 33 species of freshwater fishes and 156 species of butterflies.

Over 4 km2 of mangrove forest are found in Singapore. Coral reefs are currently estimated to cover an area of not more than 30 km2. The range of marine biodiversity that can still be found in Singapore includes over 100 reef fish species, more than 200 species of sponges and 255 species of hard corals which accounts for more than 25% of the world’s coral species. Thirty-one out of about 56 species (55%) of mangrove plants in Asia have been recorded in Singapore. These mangroves provide sanctuary to estuarine crocodiles, mud lobsters, mudskippers, archerfish, pipefish, crabs, bivalves and many mollusc species. Mangrove surveys in the past 3 years have revealed new records of 10 species, 6 genera, and 2 subfamilies of marine worms. About 12 species out of the 23 seagrass species (52%) in the Indo-Pacific can be found in Singapore. Over 450 species of crustaceans (both marine and freshwater species), 580 species of molluscs, 856 species of marine fishes, and about 500 species of seaweeds have been observed.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threats to species arise from habitat loss and degradation, pollution, poaching, and competition from alien species. Land reclamation along Singapore’s coast has decreased the coral reef cover by about 60%. Development pressures and coastal modifications continue to be the main threats to Singapore’s remaining intertidal habitats. Sedimentation and water clarity issues stemming from coastal works also threaten the marine biodiversity in Singapore’s waters. Development pressures, such as the damming up of rivers and canalisation of streams or waterways, land reclamation and natural degradation, such as coastal erosion, have resulted in the reduction of mangrove forest, which in turn drive out species dependant on mangrove habitats for survival. The threat of rising sea levels may also inundate coastal areas and mangroves. Oil spills, ship groundings and other navigation-related impacts on the reefs have to date been minimal. Other threats such as climate change and ocean acidification are less defined or understood. For example, high sea surface temperatures were the cause of the 1998 mass bleaching event in Singapore. A large portion of freshwater habitats have been affected by development, and concretised with artificial banks. Changes in water quality due to pollution pose threats to the biodiversity of the freshwater habitats. Additionally, migrating routes of freshwater species are also cut off due to impoundments.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Before the launch of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in September 2009, the Singapore Green Plan served as the NBSAP, the first of which was produced in 1992 and the second in 2002.

The NBSAP (2009) comprises 5 strategies and associated actions on the following themes: Safeguarding our Biodiversity; Consider biodiversity issues in policy and decision-making; Improve knowledge of our biodiversity and the natural environment; Enhance education and public awareness; Strengthen partnership with all stakeholders and promote international collaboration. The completion of a revised and updated NBSAP is anticipated in 2013. Notably, conservation of biodiversity-rich areas is considered in Singapore’s Master Plan which will be reviewed in 2014.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Singapore has established 2 National Parks and 4 Nature Reserves, which are legally protected under the Trees and Parks Act (2005). Nature Reserves are legally protected areas with key representative indigenous ecosystems. Several measures have been taken to address the problem of fragmentation in Singapore’s Nature Reserves. The National Parks Board has improved the general condition of the forests through a reforestation programme, which involves volunteers, schools, interest groups and corporate sponsors. Over the years, forest edges and gaps in the forest canopy have been rehabilitated with the planting of more than 17,000 native trees since the 1990s. By 2020, the current 100 km network of park connectors is envisioned to expand to 360 km. These green corridors act as ecological links, facilitating movements of birds and other animals between parks and Nature Reserves. Initiatives have also been applied to the marine environment as indicated by the setting-up of a hard coral nursery to facilitate the growth of hard corals which are used for re-populating degraded coral reefs. In recent years, mangrove planting and enrichment planting efforts have been implemented to help recover mangroves at various sites. For instance, over 400,000 mangrove saplings were planted as part of the efforts to replace loss of mangroves during construction of a landfill at Pulau Semakau.

Coupled with strong counter-pollution measures, Singapore ensures that its waters meet recreational standards and sustain diverse marine life. To avoid invasive species, soil checks and water checks are carried out to avoid accidental importation of unwanted pests and microorganisms. There is progressive removal of some invasives from the Nature Reserves.

In creating a “City in a Garden”, Singapore has integrated nature/green areas into urban infrastructure, creating more terrestrial and aquatic habitats in built-up areas. Managed habitats have become an increasingly important feature of Singapore’s green landscapes. Many parks are located within the fringes of pristine Nature Areas, thus increasing their conservation value. Green cover has increased by an estimated 10% over the past 20 years, from 36% in 1986 to 47% in 2007. The National Parks Board and the Public Utilities Board are collaborating on the Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters Programme, which includes softening of the landscape of the canals and drains by recreating freshwater ecosystems to the extent possible. One such ongoing project is the recreation of a winding river through Bishan Park, where the existing drainage canal is being re-landscaped into a natural waterway, which will serve to enhance biodiversity and offer recreational options to residents.

Current activities of protecting genetic diversity include review of development plans, impact assessments, and setting up of the National Biodiversity Reference Centre website. Studies of vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation measures are being undertaken with a view to elaborating the National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) into a series of implementable plans with time-bound or event-bound targets. There is also a Sustainable Green Technology Building Programme, with incentives provided to the industry.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The National Parks Board is designated as Singapore’s scientific authority on nature conservation and assumes the role of national focal point for the CBD. As the agency responsible for providing and enhancing Singapore’s greenery, the National Parks Board manages the 4 Nature Reserves, 2 National Parks, a network of over 100 km of park connectors, 24.16 km2 of roadside plantings and some 320 parks, totalling about 13% of the land area of Singapore. Inter-agency coordination is well aligned towards Singapore’s vision of a “City in a Garden’, where biodiversity conservation is taken into account in development projects. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is the national land use planning authority. The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources mission is to deliver and sustain a clean and healthy environment and water resources for all in Singapore. It aims to maintain a quality living environment, and improve Singapore’s environmental sustainability. The two key statutory boards under its purview are the National Environment Agency and the National Water Agency.

The National Environment Agency, established in 2002, focuses on the implementation of environmental policies through its divisions on environmental protection, environmental public health and meteorological services. The National Environment Agency programmes include pollution control; solid waste management; energy efficiency; radiation protection and nuclear safety; prevention and control of vector-borne diseases; public hygiene and cleanliness; management of hawker centres; meteorological services; 3P (People, Public and Private) Partnerships; and environmental training. Several other research institutions, NGOs, private companies, corporations, and interested groups are dealing with biodiversity and nature studies, or provide funding for conservation projects. Further, several legislation are established in the country, namely the Wild Animals and Birds Act, the Control of Plants Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Fisheries Act, the National Parks Board Act, and the Parks and Trees Act.

As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore, represented by the National Parks Board, participates in ASEAN biodiversity-related forums, such as the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. Key achievements at the regional level include the establishment of ASEAN Heritage Parks and developing the draft ASEAN Framework Agreement On Access to, and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from the Utilization of, Biological and Genetic Resources.

The National Biodiversity Centre was established on 22 May 2006, and serves as Singapore’s one-stop centre for biodiversity-related information and activities. A major role of the National Biodiversity Centre is to develop a national framework for managing biodiversity data. It looks into identifying and prioritising data and information requirements, carrying out needs assessments, identifying information gaps, developing quality standards for data collation, procedures for data exchange, facilitating flow of information, addressing custodianship and access issues and drawing up guidelines for data management standards. Access to Singapore’s biodiversity information is facilitated through an interactive web page and school activities, such as the Community Involvement Programme, Community in Bloom, and Adopt-a-Park also help to develop in students a sense of awareness and appreciation for the environment.

Three expert workshops on establishing an index to measure biodiversity in cities were held in Singapore in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The index was endorsed by the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2010, as part of the Plan of Action for Sub-national Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity. In recognition of Singapore’s contribution to and leadership in this initiative, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity formally named the index “The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity” also known as the City Biodiversity Index or CBI.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Surveys and monitoring work by the National Parks Board, the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, other research scientists and nature enthusiasts have unravelled new discoveries and rediscoveries. During the 1990s, a comprehensive 5-year survey of the 2 National Parks was carried out to collect baseline biodiversity information. The National Parks Board Natural Areas Surveys Project, conducted in 2006-2007, which surveyed over 20 mangrove, 4 terrestrial and 8 marine sites, charted 30 new records and 11 rediscoveries.