NParks opens new Dairy Farm Nature Park to protect biodiversity

Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 09;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) has unveiled a blueprint to sustain and develop Singapore's biodiversity. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan announced this at the opening of a new nature park on Saturday.

And one aspect of the plan involves the building of a land bridge between the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves.

An old disused quarry has been turned into a freshwater wetland. It's now home to insects, birds and fish, some never before seen in the area. This is an example of how a new ecosystem can be created out of what ecologists term degraded areas.

And that's one objective of a blueprint called the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan to guide conservation efforts in the public and private sectors.

Lena Chan, deputy director, National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board, said: "If you do things in a sort of ad-hoc manner and everybody just does it in different ways, and their own initiatives, then we are not optimising our resources. So there could be duplication, there is no synergy."

The quarry is located within the newly-opened Dairy Farm Nature Park.

The park was created as a buffer to protect the nearby Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from increasing urbanisation in the area.

The aim is to minimise the impact of urbanisation on these habitats. In 2001, Hindhede Nature Park at the foot of Bukit Timah Hill was created for this purpose.

The 63-hectare park has walking trails and camping areas.

And in line with the blueprint's aim of education, there's also a centre where the public can learn about the different wildlife species in Singapore and the efforts to conserve them.

Experts said sustaining healthy biodiversity levels requires the movement of wildlife between habitats.

But currently, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is cut off from the larger Central Catchment reserve by the Bukit Timah Expressway.

The solution is an overhead bridge, called the Eco-Link.

The bridge will be hour-glass shaped and will be densely planted with vegetation to encourage animal crossings.

For instance, forest birds are extremely shy creatures and therefore need dense canopy cover to help aid their flight from one area to the other.

The Eco-Link will help reduce over-crowding in the reserves, encourage the healthy exchange of genetic material among the plant and animal species, thus preventing the threat of extinction.

Experts said in the long term, these regular exchanges will help restore the ecological balance in the fragmented habitats.

Building of the land bridge is expected to begin late next year. - CNA/vm

Look out for rare bird at new park
Dairy Farm Nature Park in Upper Bukit Timah is rich in history and biodiversity
Grace Chua, Straits Times 6 Sep 09;

When work began on Dairy Farm Nature Park in 2007, National Parks Board officers found - to their horror and delight - that a rare water bird was breeding there.

Delight, as Little Grebes are found at only one other site here, but horror for fear the construction might interfere with their breeding.

They cut down on construction noise and monitored water quality at the former Singapore Quarry so that the birds could breed in peace.

'It created awareness even among contractors, so that by the end of the project, workers would come to tell us that the little birds had come very close, or that they saw five of the birds,' said Ms Sharon Chan, NParks' assistant director of the Central Nature Reserve.

The $5.7 million project in Upper Bukit Timah was successfully completed without further fowl play.

It was opened yesterday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who was guest of honour at the event.

The 63ha park, the newest of NParks' more than 50 parks and reserves, is next to the 126-year-old Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

It was developed, starting from 2007, to reduce the human pressure on Bukit Timah, which gets 400,000 visitors a year.

Prior to that, rock climbers and mountain bikers were already using the Dairy Farm Quarry walls and surrounding mountain bike trails.

With its towering flame trees and lush bird's nest ferns, Dairy Farm looks primeval. But it is secondary, not primary, forest - in the 1800s, it had been cleared for gambier plantations.

The park is rich both in biodiversity and history. In the 1850s, naturalist Alfred Wallace discovered 700 species of beetles in the area.

His research contributed key ideas about evolutionary theory, which jump-started Charles Darwin's landmark work On The Origin Of Species.

In 1929, the area was converted into a farm with cows from Europe producing fresh milk - hence its name.

Besides raising the environmental awareness of construction workers, the nature park project also makes use of recycled materials such as timber and old bricks from torn-down houses.

Dairy Farm features nature trails and a wetland area at the site of the old Singapore Quarry.

On the cards: a geological trail that details the history and geology of the quarry. It was the source of stones used for building the Causeway in 1923.

An ecological learning lab converted from an old cowshed offers programmes developed with partners Raffles Girls' School and the National University of Singapore, and sponsored by GlaxoSmith-Kline.

The Wallace Environmental Learning Lab will also offer the first overnight educational camps in any nature park in Singapore.

Dairy Farm Nature Park, along Dairy Farm Road, is open from 7am to 7pm daily. Admission is free.

Bridge to link two nature reserves by 2013
Grace Chua, Straits Times 6 Sep 09;

By 2013, there will be a new green link between the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area.

Conservationists had long bemoaned the separation of the two reserves by the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) since its construction in 1986.

The road prevented plant and animal species from moving between the two forest tracts.

The new eco-passage will arch over the 50m-wide BKE and be sited at a suitable narrow point between the reserves. Its construction was announced yesterday at the opening of the National Parks Board's Dairy Farm Nature Park.

A tender will be called at the end of this year and construction will start next year.

The bridge, 50m wide at its narrowest point and planted with dense trees resembling a forest habitat, could help populations of animals like the critically-endangered banded leaf monkey to recover.

Four to six years ago, there were thought to be fewer than 20 of the small dark-furred monkeys - a number too small to be sustainable - but now there are about 30 living around the Central Catchment Area.

The eco-link could help them migrate to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to find other food sources.

A hiking trail at one edge will also enable humans to move between the reserves.

National University of Singapore conservation biologist Navjot Sodhi said of the bridge: 'Every plan to connect habitats is a good plan but how it pans out - only time will tell.'

'I hope NParks will do surveys to see how species are moving between the reserves,' he added.

Also launched yesterday was a national document which outlines Singapore's strategy for protecting its plants, animals and ecosystems.

The eco-link and Dairy Farm Nature Park are key components of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which describes five strategies:

# Safeguarding biodiversity.

# Taking biodiversity into account in policy-making.

# Improving knowledge of the natural environment.

# Raising public awareness of biodiversity.

# Strengthening local and international partnerships.

'It's not just scientists and government. Every individual plays a part in making conservation work in Singapore,' said Dr Lena Chan of NParks' conservation division.

Marine biologist Chou Loke Ming of the National University of Singapore said the plan recognises the importance of biodiversity and sets up a framework to protect it.

The plan is available online at www.nparks.gov.sg/nbsap. (wildnews note: Link not working as at 6 Sep, perhaps it will become active later).

Meanwhile, try this link
http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=159&Itemid=152

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