The Sunday Times says

Heeding the call of biodiversity

The discovery of over 480 new species of animals and plants here over the last five years is something of a miracle. Given the size of the island and its ever-expanding concrete jungle, one would have expected biodiversity to be on the back foot. That it is flowering instead is a tribute to the resilience of nature, as well as the efforts of the National Parks Board, Nature Society, researchers, naturalists and eco bloggers.

Any undertaking to protect Singapore's natural heritage cannot be left to conservationists alone, of course. Broad public participation is needed, not just because of the scale of the work to be done but also to ensure efforts to shield the fragile existence of indigenous flora and fauna are not undermined by careless human actions or invasive alien species which can cause extinctions.

The loss of biodiversity can trigger a complex chain of consequences, which could harm humans if the links are not understood. For example, if people inadvertently kill off an organism called Prochlorococcus which produces about 20 per cent of oxygen, the very air people breathe will be affected. Yet until three decades ago, people didn't even know the organism exists.

From a wider perspective, a deep appreciation of the nation's precious biodiversity can provide the impetus for greater efforts in a host of related areas - like initiatives to curb pollution and encourage recycling, avoid or mitigate the environmental impact of development projects, buy products from sustainable sources, and squarely address climate change and energy issues.

It is hard to quantify the value of the benefits of biodiversity. Nature is priceless, but some say putting a dollar value to the loss of species can be a helpful argument when competing needs arise for limited resources, like land. What will make a bigger difference is a deep understanding of why biodiversity matters to all, including urbanites.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Heeding the call of biodiversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe