08 December 2008

Singapore-Delft Water Alliance: help for our reefs, seagrasses and mangroves?

Murky, sediment-laden waters and other stresses on our marine ecosystems. Learning more about these and how to build harbours that can also sustain marine life are the aim of the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, a team of Singapore and Dutch researchers.
The team is also looking at Pulau Semakau to house an aquatic centre.

The team will learn precisely how the ecosystem reacts to stresses and will then conduct tests to try to develop more natural ways to prevent erosion or biodiversity loss.

'This is about regional planning to increase the biodiversity for any type of coastal development, whether on the cityfront, port or nature park."

In some cases, restoring coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves may provide enough protection for the shoreline. But as such buffers have to extend 100m inland from the waterline to land safe enough to build on, they can be put up only in areas far from the Central Business District. On coasts by the CBD or sites to moor vessels, a hard shoreline might be the only alternative as its width is 20m. However, it could incorporate hiding places to encourage fish and corals to grow.

Singapore will be one of four sites for the studies, with the rest in the Netherlands. The teams will create a coastal marine development programme, beginning with pilot tests, that can eventually be implemented at shorelines worldwide.

The team is also looking to establish "an aquatic centre in a marine setting, hopefully on one of the southern islands where we have the rare condition of pristine nature in close proximity to urban developments."

A dream site for the researchers would be Pulau Semakau, where coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows flourish alongside the dumping grounds of waste incinerators. A concrete wall separates the natural from the man-made. The marine aquatic centre will be similar to a freshwater research centre at Sungei Ulu Pandan, which has an open concept, inviting passers-by to come in and find out more about science.

Discussions with government agencies, including the National Parks Board, Building & Construction Authority and the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, have begun to find the best sites for the projects.

Work will begin on research models at the Tropical Marine Sciences Institute's laboratories on St John's Island. Once perfected, these projects will find a home in nature.

Full report on Developing Singapore's shorelines the eco-friendly way by Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 6 Dec 08 is on the wildsingapore news blog.

More details about the projects

From the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance (SDWA) website, there are several on-going projects including these:

Project Coral Seagrass focuses on the ecological effects of turbidity and sedimentation on coral reefs and seagrass meadows. Including studying the effects of dredging and infrastructure development near critical marine ecosystems and the ecosystem services of mangroves as a case study on sediment dynamics.

The project hopes to contribute to "a paradigm shift towards ecosystem-based design of maritime infrastructue developments and operational practices and a more sustainable sediment management in Singapore's coastal waters." It also hopes to develop knowledge to "improve the predictability of the effects of dredging and maritime infrastructure development" and to contribute to "sustainable management and recovery of these critical ecosystems, both in Singapore and elsewhere in the world."

from Dredging and infrastructure development near critical marine ecosystems on the SDWA website (PDF file).

Project Mangrove aims to "gain fundamental insights needed for mangrove restoration and the use of mangrove forests to improve water quality and ecosystem functioning in Singapore and neighbouring countries."

from Relating ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services by mangroves: a case study of sedimentation dynamics on the SDWA website (PDF file).

Project Sediment aims to "determine the processes responsible for the increased turbidity by identification of a sediment budget of the Singapore coastal waters, including the main sources and sinks and dominant sediment transport mechanisms."from Large-scale sediment transport and turbidity in Singapore's coastal waters on the SDWA website (PDF file).
Links to more
Other media articles about the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance

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