Coastal forest at southern waterfront to be restored

5,000 native trees will be planted as part of national efforts to conserve its biodiversity

A 12.5ha coastal forest in Labrador, along the Greater Southern Waterfront, will be restored from next year as part of Singapore's efforts to conserve its biodiversity for future generations.

The restoration of the area - the size of 17 football fields - will include the planting of 5,000 native trees that are suited to the coastal forest environment together with the community, National Development Minister Desmond Lee announced yesterday.

Agencies will also study how they can enhance the connectivity between the 22ha Labrador Nature Reserve and its surrounding green spaces as they embark on future plans for the area, he said.

In a statement on its Forest Restoration Action Plan for the reserve, the National Parks Board (NParks) said the measures planned till 2030 will strengthen the ecological and climate resilience of its habitats.

These comprise a 10ha coastal hill forest and a coastal beach forest in the 2.5ha area between the coastal hill forest and the sea.

Restoration efforts will be focused on the coastal beach area, currently occupied by empty fields and recreational facilities.

Whether these will remain post-restoration depends on design and planning, although NParks said that "compatible recreational uses" will be relocated away from core conservation areas.

The coastal hill and beach lie beside mainland Singapore's last remaining rocky shore, which has rich intertidal faunal diversity.

A new coastal trail will also be introduced, where visitors can learn about coastal habitats and their diversity. Its development will be supported by Keppel Corp through a $1 million donation.

The trail will also provide visitors with views of the sea from vantage points, and allow them to learn more about the history of the coastline, its native flora and fauna, the impact of rising sea levels, and why conserving natural coastal habitats is key to climate resilience, NParks said. Work on its design and development will start next year.

Mr Danny Teoh, chairman of Keppel Corp, said that it has been active in conservation efforts in and around Keppel Bay: "Through these projects, we hope to help preserve biodiversity at the reserve and contribute to nature-based solutions to combat climate change."

NParks said the coastal hill forest houses plants that are tolerant of salt exposure and poorer soil conditions, some species of which are now very rare. Together, the reserve's habitats are home to 100 bird species, 41 butterfly species, 15 mangrove species and four seagrass species.

The restoration will help buffer the core habitats within the nature reserve, said Mr Lee, who added that the newly planted trees will provide food and shelter for native species, as well as strengthen ecosystem resilience.

Yesterday, Mr Lee joined members from the nature community and donors to NParks' programmes in planting 50 native coastal trees at the nature reserve.

Yesterday was also the 50th anniversary of Tree Planting Day, which was established by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

On Nov 7, 1971, then Defence Minister and Acting PM Goh Keng Swee led a community tree-planting effort at Mount Faber Park.

Fifty years on, Singapore is making an even bigger push towards greenery and sustainability, to be a City in Nature, said Mr Lee.

Tree planting is key, he said, citing the aim of planting a million more trees by 2030, part of the national effort to respond to land-use challenges by finding more innovative ways to weave nature into the fabric of the city.

"This is so that nature can thrive right in the heart of our city, and for Singaporeans to enjoy the benefits of nature for generations to come," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2021, with the headline 'Coastal forest at southern waterfront to be restored'. Subscribe