Bukit Brown's ecological significance

We agree with Dr Wee Yeow Chin that any "piece of land left undisturbed for a prolonged period... will see the vegetation regenerating and the biodiversity increasing" ("Bukit Brown habitat can be recreated"; Forum Online, July 20), but for us, it doesn't simply follow from this that it would have no ecological/biodiversity significance at all.

Take the case of the Sungei Buloh area, now officially designated the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It was almost bare of mangrove, consisting mainly of abandoned aqua-culture ponds in the 80s. But it has developed within three decades into a healthy mangrove ecosystem with increase in wildlife species there.

Apart from the many migratory shorebirds, it now also harbours nationally endangered species like the great-billed heron, mangrove pitta, buffy fish owl and smooth otter. To say now that the mangrove ecosystem there is not worth conserving because this type of habitat can be regenerated over just several decades lacks eco-sense.

Given that the forest of Bukit Brown has attracted forest wildlife, many of which are endangered, it is worth conserving because it is better to have what is already there than to create from scratch a similar habitat elsewhere.

Even in the case of Dr Wee's backyard, we would regard it as brash for any conservationist to dismiss it as ecologically insignificant if he can welcome wildlife like the endangered pangolin to find nourishment there.

True, forest wildlife from the nature reserves can also move elsewhere but if that area is rich in such wildlife with rare/endangered species thrown in, we would be ready to also put a case for its conservation - as we did recently for the unprotected forest contiguous to the north-west portion of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

If the relatively small acreage of our protected forest can be expanded by conserving unprotected forests that have attracted endangered wildlife, the population of such species as well as others would be larger or have room to grow larger.

This would be an invaluable safeguard against any collapse or destruction to the forest ecosystem and its wildlife caused by any such disturbances, like disease, forest fire, wind-storm and gene-pool decline through isolation.

Given also the cultural significance of Bukit Brown, as presented by the Singapore Heritage Society, there is all the more reason for it to be designated a park integrating both its cultural and natural assets.

Ho Hua Chew
Vice-chairman
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)