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Calls to save Mandai site that's rich in biodiversity

Researchers highlight its 'full ecosystem' where mangroves, horseshoe crabs thrive

Published on Oct 7, 2013 8:04 AM
 
Researchers N. Sivasothi (left) and Dan Friess at the Mandai mangrove site, which has been zoned as a reserve site - which means it could be subject to future development. Some feel the area needs formal management to conserve it. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

THE strip of mangroves and mudflats at the edge of the Sungei Mandai Besar river may not be as well-known here as the ones at Sungei Buloh or Pasir Ris Park. But it is home to the largest horseshoe-crab concentration in the world, and two-thirds of Singapore's mangrove species.

Migratory birds also use it as a feeding ground to supplement the food they find from the shores of Sungei Buloh. As birdwatcher Alan Owyong noted: "Without Mandai, there's no Sungei Buloh."

These were among the findings presented by researchers, students and amateur naturalists at a recent conference, the first to focus on the Mandai mangrove, leading to calls to protect the area.

This habitat contains a full ecosystem in a sliver of land, said National University of Singapore (NUS) biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, one of the conference organisers.

 
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Background story

All's not lost, mangroves are getting help

SINGAPORE'S mangrove area may have dwindled to less than 1 per cent of its total land area due to development and the damming of natural rivers - a practice which lasted till the early 2000s.

But not all of the mangrove patches here have been lost.

Three decades ago, when Pasir Ris Park was reclaimed from a patch of natural swamp, Sungei Api Api had to be deepened and the mangroves on its banks removed. But the authorities later replanted Avicennia mangroves along Sungei Api Api to stabilise the embankment.

And last year, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced it would carry out a two-year biodiversity study of the 6ha Pasir Ris mangroves.

Earlier this year, the Housing Board announced that the Punggol Waterway, where a pilot 160 sq m patch of freshwater-tolerant mangroves was tested, will get 0.6ha more of such plantings.

The HDB's Building Research Institute and Ngee Ann Polytechnic are studying how effective the mangroves and floating wetlands there are at cleaning the water and attracting more wildlife to the waterway.

Even the mangroves along a 3km stretch of coast in Pulau Tekong, which were at risk from erosion, got help. In 2010, NParks embarked on a project to stabilise the coastline by shoring it up with rocks and mud-filled sacks, and putting in mangrove seedlings and bakau wood poles to soften the impact of waves.

GRACE CHUA