New nursery for native coastal trees launched on Pulau Ubin

Trees grown there will later be replanted to restore island's coastal habitat

A 1ha grove on Pulau Ubin dedicated to planting and growing coastal trees for rejuvenating the island's coasts was launched yesterday.

The new coastal arboretum, which is a little more than the size of a football field, will act as a nursery for about 500 trees, spanning about 70 native species, by the end of the year.

Most of the trees will later be replanted on Pulau Ubin's coasts to help restore the island's coastal habitat, while some of them will be used for habitat enhancement projects on mainland Singapore.

To kick off planting work at the arboretum, 50 coastal trees from nine species will be grown there this month.

The new grove is nestled in the Ubin Living Lab, which is located in the island's south-west. The laboratory is a facility for field studies and environmental education.

To launch the site, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu yesterday planted saplings of the critically endangered seashore nutmeg tree at the nursery.

Yesterday was also Ubin Day, first held in 2002, which aims to celebrate the rich natural and cultural heritage of the biodiversity-rich island.

Mr Lee said: "Conserving (the island's) key habitats and ecosystems through tree plantings and other restoration efforts is crucial in ensuring the long-term survival of rare native species."

Over the last century, many coastal habitats in Singapore were lost as they were prime areas for settlements and urbanisation.

The Straits Times previously reported that about 16 per cent of Singapore's coasts consists of mangroves and mudflats, 12 per cent is made up of sandy beaches, and less than 1 per cent comprises rocky shore habitats.

Mr N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences, said: "The surviving coastal forests have many species of conservation significance... This nursery at Pulau Ubin is a welcome development to sustain the revival of coastal ecosystems.

"The interesting thing is that (coastal trees) can be hardy roadside trees, too, so some of those plants can appear in urban areas."

Rejuvenating the coasts is just one part of the National Parks Board's (NParks) efforts to reforest patches of land on Pulau Ubin.

This year, 3,500 trees will be planted on 12 abandoned sites across the island that were previously used for granite mining, aquaculture, agriculture and building settlements. The sites include a part of the Chek Jawa Wetlands, Kekek Quarry and Ketam Mountain Bike Park.

Over the years, the plan is for the number of new trees at the 12 sites to reach more than 16,000.

NParks said the trees planted at the 12 sites will help to enhance biodiversity and ecological connectivity between those green spaces and the core forests within Pulau Ubin.

The planting efforts on the island contribute to the goal of planting more than a million trees across Singapore over the next decade. The movement, which started last year, has seen more than 241,000 new trees planted.

Besides greening Pulau Ubin and making it a more conducive environment for wildlife, NParks has not forgotten the island's human residents and visitors.

The agency, with the help of partners and volunteers, has restored a few kampung houses and made the island more accessible to wheelchair users.

Over the past two years, four kampung structures have been repaired and restored, including a bicycle rental shop and a seafood restaurant.

Pulau Ubin has 67 licensees who own kampung houses and businesses, and NParks said it is currently assessing a few more requests by home or business owners for repair work.

The agency said it will continue to assess such requests and assist with repair and restoration works on a goodwill basis, especially in cases that need many resources or where safety may be affected.

To make Pulau Ubin more accessible, there are portable ramps available to help wheelchair users into vans or onto boats.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 12, 2021, with the headline 'New nursery for native coastal trees launched on Pulau Ubin'. Subscribe