Singapore to develop biodiversity index

Project will help chart how cities manage their range of flora and fauna
Grace Chua, Straits Times 1 May 09;

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

More than half the world's population now lives in cities, which pose threats to biodiversity in the form of development, pollution and competing land use.

Yet a wide range of plants and animals is essential even to cities.

Plants, for instance, absorb carbon dioxide and prevent flooding as well as soil erosion, and bats pollinate the fruit trees in gardens and by roadsides.

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.

'It will be like a report card with grades for different indicators,' said Dr Lena Chan, deputy director of the National Parks Board's (NParks) National Biodiversity Centre.

The centre is helping to develop the index with its own technical experts and those from overseas institutes, scientists from the National University of Singapore and NParks, and city representatives and non-governmental organisations from around the world.

The index, expected to be ready for use next year, originated from the conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Bonn last May.

At the conference, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan commented on the need for a biodiversity index specifically for cities, as none existed.

The development of the Singapore Index was announced by an inter-ministerial committee on Monday as part of a sustainable-development blueprint.

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.

Biodiversity index named after Singapore

Business Times 1 May 09;

AN index to measure biodiversity in cities has been named after Singapore in recognition of the island's contribution and leadership in the area.

The 'Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity' - or 'Singapore Index', for short - is intended to help cities evaluate their biodiversity efforts over time.

In February, various players were invited to a workshop here by the National Parks Board. International experts, non-governmental organisations and city representatives from Montreal and Nagoya convened to discuss the specifics of the index.

It was agreed the Singapore Index should focus on components such as the native biodiversity, ecosystems services present and how a city manages these things.

Details of assessment criteria will be decided by year-end, but BT understands cities will derive a single number from applying the index.

Singapore initiated the development of a city biodiversity index when National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan proposed the idea at a conference in Germany last May.

The effort is part of Singapore's push to promote sustainability.

It is hoped the index will be used as a self-assessment tool for cities aware of gaps in information about their biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Oliver Hillel, of the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), found the workshop to be 'one of the best events' he has participated in. 'The city biodiversity index will be a strategic contribution to the CBD in more ways than one,' he said.

So far, cities including Paris, Curitiba in Brazil and Edmonton in Canada have agreed to test the Singapore Index.