New marine climate science programme in Singapore to call for proposals in November

As an island nation surrounded by the sea, Singapore is vulnerable to changes in the realm of the blue as the world warms.

Sea level rise brought about by the melting of land ice, for instance, is a major threat for the low-lying country.

A warming ocean could also result in more frequent harmful algae blooms, which could kill fish in kelongs here and affect the Republic's food security.

But Singapore is taking steps to better understand how climate change could impact the marine environment, with the Government launching a call for research proposals under the new Marine Climate Change Science programme in November.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said during a marine science symposium yesterday: "We will study the impact of climate change on our marine ecosystems, such as rising sea levels, increasing sea surface temperatures and extreme storm events, and how we can overcome these challenges in a sustainable manner, such as by using nature-based solutions to protect our coasts against rising sea levels."

Mangroves, for example, are habitats that stand where the sea meets land, and are considered a nature-based solution to help mankind mitigate and adapt to the changing climate.

The $25 million Marine Climate Change Science programme, first announced in March, is led by the National Parks Board and involves government agencies, research institutes and industry partners.

The November grant call for the new programme comes as the Marine Science Research and Development Programme, an initiative launched in 2016, draws to a close.

The earlier programme, also funded to the tune of $25 million, was helmed by the National Research Foundation and had a broader scope. Thirty-three initiatives were funded under the earlier programme, with research projects on various topics such as biodiversity, including horseshoe crabs and coral reefs, as well as the marine microbial world.

The Marine Climate Change Science programme has a more focused scope on climate change.

The oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the planet's surface. The bounty in their depths helps to feed mankind through fisheries, while the weird and wonderful creatures that swim in the seas help spark the imagination.

But the oceans are also crucial in helping to regulate the global climate - absorbing about a quarter of the carbon dioxide that humans spew into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned.

At Thursday's event, Mr Lee said marine science research is particularly important for Singapore, which has to balance the conservation of its rich marine habitats with its shipping hub status.

The event was attended by marine science researchers, representatives from the marine industry and government officials.

Mr Lee said the Republic also has to deal with problems such as marine pollution with its neighbours.

"We have a strong responsibility to protect our coastal and marine habitats, and the research community plays an instrumental role in this," he said.

"With your help, we can more accurately model and predict environmental changes across a range of scientific and geographical considerations which in turn helps us to develop better ways of safeguarding our marine environment and biodiversity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2021, with the headline 'New marine climate science programme in Singapore to call for proposals in November'. Subscribe