02 May 2009

The Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity

Singapore is helping to develop a grading system to measure how cities worldwide are conserving their plant and animal species.

The Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity would measure performance and assign scores based on three categories:
  • Biodiversity - the number of plant, animal and other species that exist in a city;
  • The services that these plants and animals provide, such as pollination and as carbon sinks; and
  • How well a city manages its biodiversity - for instance, by setting up a conservation agency or a museum to document species and habitats.
The index is expected to be ready for use next year.

At the same time, Singapore is coming up with a national plan to protect its biodiversity for the next 10 to 15 years. Details of the plan are being worked out and will be announced later this month, but it will include biodiversity monitoring programmes, species surveys and the reintroduction of rare species.

Commenting on the index, NParks chief executive Ng Lang said: 'You can't manage what you can't measure. So it will create a more scientific approach to helping countries know where they stand relative to others.'

The idea for the index came from Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan at the Bonn Diversity Summit in Germany, to assist cities in benchmarking their biodiversity conservation efforts.

When he suggested the concept, Minister Mah said “Currently, there are no well-established indices to measure biodiversity in cities. Such a City Biodiversity Index can assist cities in the benchmarking of our biodiversity conservation efforts over time.

“It can help us to evaluate our progress in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss.”

He noted that Singapore, urbanised as it is, has managed to not only set aside 10 per cent of land for parks and nature reserves — it has even increased the green cover, consisting of parks, park connectors, streetscape and waterfront greenery, to 50 per cent.

This is a 10-per-cent increase over the past 20 years, despite a 70-per-cent growth in population, he said.

Other testaments to Singapore’s convervation efforts is the creation of an on-site coral nursery alongside the Semakau landfill.

And the Oriental Pied Hornbill, which disappeared from Singapore for: more than 50 years, is now establishing healthy populations on Pulau Ubin.

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