SINGAPORE: Singapore’s largest marine biodiversity expedition is unearthing new records and rediscoveries of marine fauna.
Experts say the three—week expedition will go a long way towards future policy planning.
The expedition involves some 170 renowned local and international scientists, as well as conservation officers and volunteers.
They have set up base at Pulau Ubin’s Outward Bound School.
The mammoth task involves dredging and trawling through murky waters to collect samples, sifting through gravel, mud and sand and finally photographing and identifying the thousands of specimens.
For Dr Daphne Fautin, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with the University of Kansas, the results have thrown up a few surprises.
She said: "I was very reluctant, because I knew Singapore has changed so much since I was here, including all of the expansion of the land. So I thought, ’I’m not going to find anything on the shores because it’s all been filled in and extended’. And I was just astonished at the diversity.
"Species that previously were known only from India, we’re finding them here. That’s not so far away, and that’s not too surprising, but I think we’re getting a meeting of the Pacific fauna and the Indian fauna, which makes Singapore particularly rich and wonderful and very diverse in the marine realm."
The expedition is part of Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS), launched in 2010, and which aims to take an inventory of the island’s marine ecosystem.
Since the expedition started on 15 October, about 30 dredging and inter—tidal surveys have been conducted, with 12 more expected until the expedition ends on 2 November.
NParks, which is facilitating the survey, says about 1,000 specimens have been collected. Five new specimen records and two rediscoveries have also been documented.
With the expedition expected to amass a rich amount of data, experts hope the information will go a long way.
Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity at the National University of Singapore, said: "What this survey will do, at least for these three weeks, is add a new layer of information that we didn’t previously have.
"One of the missions here, not overly declared but definitely in the pipeline, is we want to build this baseline so that we can make more coherent decisions down the road."
The biodiversity survey should be completed by 2015, at a cost of between S$3m—S$4m. This includes funding received from the government as well as corporate sponsors.
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