The loss of biodiversity and heritage is inevitable when Singapore aims to expand its land by nearly 10% through reclamation and freeing up of reserve land by 2030. Although much biodiversity and heritage have been lost throughout the course of development, I believe that it is worth spending money or effort to protect our biodiversity and natural heritage in view of the forthcoming developments. This is due to Singapore having a substantial biodiversity and a large array of native species still existing on this small island, which substantiates the need to protect them.
One reason we should protect our biodiversity and natural heritage is due to genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. Within a species, individual organisms possess a variation of alleles, which are suited for different environmental conditions. Therefore, with more diverse genetic characteristics, a species will have a higher chance of continuity in view of changing environments. According to a study done in 2007, “genetic diversity and species diversity depend on each other” (Lankau, 2007). This implies if there is a lack of genetic diversity within a species, species diversity will not be maintained and vice versa. This removal of either one of those factors will result in the breakdown of the ecosystem (Lankau, 2007). However, Singapore has lost up to 73% of its plants and animals since 1803 due to development (Pickrell, 2003), which has caused the variation of alleles in the gene pool to diminish drastically. Ultimately, the future of the human civilization will be in peril if we do not restore the balance between the human enterprise and the natural world (Tan et al, 2010) as we are reliant on each other. Therefore it is worth it for Singapore to protect its biodiversity in view of the future developments.
Healthcare is of high importance to Singaporeans as exemplified in the allocation of $5.7 billion to healthcare in the Singapore Budget 2013, which is about 10% of the total budget (Singapore Budget, 2013). Therefore, the medicinal properties of plants are of importance when discussing about the need to conserve biodiversity in Singapore. In the Healing Garden in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, there are 500 species of plants with medicinal properties (NParks, 2011). Examples of plants in the Healing Garden would be the White Mulberry (Morus alba) and Aloe vera. The fruit of the white mulberry can be used to treat diabetes, cough, wheezing, headache and constipation. Aloe vera can be made into a gel with antibiotic, astringent and coagulating agents, and thus is a powerful natural healing agent. Moreover, the roots of the Aloe vera have diuretic and diaphoretic functions too (NParks, 2011). Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 80000 species of plants have not been discovered around the world (Osborn, 2011). In Singapore, about 500 new species of plants and animals are discovered in the last decade, which includes more than 100 species that are new to science (NParks, 2011). With every new species discovered, there are chances that it possesses medicinal properties that can treat some known diseases. As such, it is worth spending money and effort in conserving the biodiversity of Singapore in order to discover the medicinal properties of these plants before they go extinct.
Global warming is an increasingly worrying problem as it has an adverse impact on the world’s ecosystem, such as extinction of species (National Geographic, 2007). The biodiversity in our ecosystem can help us mitigate the negative effects of global warming by acting as a carbon sink. A carbon sink is a reservoir that can accumulate and store carbon-containing compounds such as carbon dioxide for an indefinite period of time. Natural carbon sinks includes forests and mangroves, with mangroves being a better sink as it can sequester up to five times as much carbon dioxide as tropical forests (Chua, 2011). However, Singapore’s land area covered by mangrove has decreased by more than 95% from 1950 to 2002 and forests have decreased from 3.35% to 2.86% from 2002 to 2010 (Trading Economics, 2012). The depletion of mangroves and forests causes greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere, causing more heat from the sun to be trapped in Earth, leading to global warming (Sharma, 2008). To prevent drastic changes in the global climate, countries like Singapore have acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in 2006 (National Climate Change Secretariat, 2012) and welcomed the extension of the Kyoto Protocol (Channel News Asia, 2012). As one of the most efficient ways to cut carbon emission is to conserve and resurrect the mangroves and forests in Singapore, therefore, there it is worth it to protect the biodiversity of Singapore, especially the mangroves that may be reclaimed, in order to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming,
Lastly, Ecotourism is one economic sector that biodiversity has impact on. Ecotourism is defined by the as responsible travel to natural areas the conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people (The International Ecotourism Society, n.d.). Ecotourism in Singapore includes the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore Zoological Gardens, Gardens by the Bay and many others. For instance, the Singapore Zoological Gardens attract over 1.6 million visitors a year (Wildlife Reserve Singapore, n.d.). With these places as tourist attractions in Singapore, it clearly shows that ecotourism ties conservation and economic growth together. Therefore, in order for ecotourism to develop into a stable source of revenue for Singapore, we have to protect our biodiversity during development to prevent it from being destroyed.
However, some may argue that as bulk of the land expansion is done in order to increase housing and industrial land to accommodate the increase in population. The increase in population is important to Singapore, as our main resource is human capital rather than natural resources (Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, 2008) thus reducing the need for conserving biodiversity to attain economic growth.
In conclusion, despite the lack of reliance on natural resources, it is still important to conserve our biodiversity as its importance have been exemplified in the aforementioned points. Moreover, the native species in the biodiversity also contributes to our identity as a ‘Garden City’. Therefore, it is worth it for us to invest money and effort to protect our biodiversity.
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3. Tan et al (2010). The Natural Heritage of Singapore 3rd Edition p. 7
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5. Osborn, L. (2011). Undiscovered Species – How Many Are There Left To Find?. www.currentresults.com Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://www.currentresults.com/Environment-Facts/Plants-Animals/number-of-undiscovered-species-living-on-earth.php
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17. Singapore National Commission for UNESCO pt. 5 (2008 May 28) Opening address by Prof S Jayakumar, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating