GE3255 Aquatic, Riparian and Coastal Systems

Restoring Singapore's Mangrove and River Ecosystems

Resurrecting Paradise: Our animals have a new home in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio (B-AMK) Park through river restoration

With every concrete slab replaced with a patch of luscious grass, a red jungle fowl appears; as the banks get decorated with water hyssops, a pond slider glides past gracefully.

Gradually, a once dull and gray Kallang River has been transformed into the luscious green paradise.  Nestled amidst the urban heart of central Singapore lies a verdant oasis, a sanctuary for nature’s resplendent wonders.

How did B-AMK Park achieve greater wildlife diversity? The meticulous re-design of the park mimics a natural floodplain; water overflows it without causing a flood downstream during a storm, as I learnt during my fieldtrip to B-AMK Park with my professor, someone passionate for things nature-related.

Earth Control Measures such as gabions keeps the structural integrity of the soils intact and bioswales ensures water can be filtered by the plants and rocks via trapping sediments, preventing soil erosion that might otherwise disrupt water quality, thus being more accommodating to marine organisms.  The vast floodplain is a grazing field for the native jungle fowls, currently at risk of habitat loss, and listed as Endangered in the Singapore Red Data Book.

For optimum management, park go-ers need to foster a sense of ownership for the park and do their part in maintaining its level of cleanliness and beauty.  This includes not feeding wildlife, polluting the waters, and not trampling on the plants.

Based on my observations, I learnt that the naturalisation of a canal requires the agglomeration of different factors; this is the cornerstone in effective restoration efforts due to how multi-faceted aspects of ameliorating a canal.  I observed that the Kallang River had multiple natural meanders with a flexible river design. By replacing rigidly engineered channels with a natural channel design allows for the creation of meandering, self-maintaining channels which can adjust to accommodate new external influences such as increased volume or velocity of water. Natural meanders also produce point bars and cut banks that can be used as reproducing grounds for animals  like  otters  and jungle  fowls.

The restoration of the river has given a multitude of flora and fauna a new home.  If you ever find yourself in the area, I urge you, especially wildlife photography enthusiasts to see grey herons standing majestically and otters frolic in the revitalized waters.  Take a stroll or cycle along the asphalt paths and view the greenery around you. B-AMK Park is a living testament to nature’s resilience when given the chance to rebound.


Infiltrating the Concrete Jungle: How the restored Kallang River benefits the residents and environment.

Fig 1: Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park before and after. Credits: Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl

In the heart of Singapore lies a hidden gem, the Kallang River, which has undergone a remarkable transformation. The restoration of the Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park breathed new life into this crucial habitat, habitats that are increasingly hard to find in urban Singapore. This ecological renaissance not only benefits the residents but also serves as a testament to the power of restoration.

The Kallang River is not just any waterway; it’s a lifeline for Singapore. Its restoration is crucial because it not only rejuvenates a piece of Singapore’s heritage but also holds the key to a sustainable future. In this field trip, I gained fascinating insight into the components that worked effortlessly together to conserve and manage the park such as the Gabions and the Floodplains.

I was awed by the complete naturality of it and was especially keen to learn about the floodplains that surround the restored river. These floodplains (Figure 2) allow for excess surface runoff to “flood the plains” in the presence of heavy rain or when the river is full to the brim. They were integral in preventing flash floods, which were once increasingly common in nearby Orchard, potentially saving the livelihoods of many Singaporeans.

Figure 2: Credits: Prof Gretchen Coffman (2023)

Gabions (Figure 3) surrounded the lush green of the park, with its tall and sturdy wire-mesh grids containing rocks to prevent erosion from its HDB neighbours.

Figure 3: Credits: Prof Gretchen Coffman (2023)

One of the unique aspects of the Kallang River restoration project is the concept of daylighting, which is the practice of exposing hidden or underground waterways to sunlight, essentially bringing them back into the open. This approach has transformed the once-concretized canal into a meandering, natural oasis. Visitors can now stroll along its banks, enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water, and reconnect with nature amidst a bustling urban landscape. See for a detailed explanation!

Fig 4: Reintroduced wildlife returning to the Kallang River. Credits: Prof. G. Coffman (2023)

So, why should people visit these restored sites?

Beyond their beauty and recreational value, they offer a unique opportunity for Singaporeans to connect with nature and understand the delicate balance required to sustain it. It’s a chance to witness the positiveness of conservation and restoration efforts and to be inspired to contribute to a greener future, through sustainable urban planning and interdisciplinary work. I thoroughly enjoyed my field trip and how Singapore is transforming into a City in Nature as part of the Green Plan 2030.(





Native Treasures: Exploring Flora and Fauna of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Located in the centre of Singapore, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (BAMK) is a testament to the potential of re-naturalization. This is a story about how a concrete canal has been developed into a vibrant urban oasis and why we need many more of these in our urban fabric. In this blog post, we document our journey of discovery down this naturalized canal and observe how this daylighted stream is now home to hundreds of native flora and fauna species.
The Beauty of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
The history of BAMK is one of rejuvenation and transformation. This park witnessed a spectacular transformation from a functional drainage channel to a haven of natural beauty. Re-naturalization efforts, spearheaded by the National Parks Board, have breathed new life into this space. Concrete banks were softened, and natural meanders were introduced to recreate a river’s dynamics, offering visitors an amazing visual experience.

Figure 1: Meandering River which replaced the concretized Kallang River
(Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)
At the core of BAMK’s picturesque landscapes lies its pivotal role in biodiversity conservation. Priority was given to the preservation and improvement of the park’s natural habitats during the planning and maintenance. BAMK has embraced the idea of biophilia, recognising that a thriving ecosystem teeming with life offers a respite from the bustle of the city and contributes to a healthier environment.

Native Flora Observed
BAMK’s vibrant flora reflects the rich biodiversity of Singapore’s native plant species. Among the native treasures you will find here are:
1. Ficus benjamina: Also known as the weeping fig, this tree with its glossy leaves provides shade and a sense of tranquillity.

Figure 2: Ficus benjamina (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)
2. Nymphaea cv.: The tranquil Lotus Pond wetland of BAMK is adorned with water lilies, which display their graceful beauty.

Figure 3: Nymphaea cv (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)

Native Fauna Observed
The park is not only a sanctuary for native flora but also a thriving habitat for a diverse range of fauna. Among the fascinating creatures you might encounter at BAMK are:
1. Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron: These graceful birds can be seen posing in a lovely manner as they search for fish while wading over the water.

Figure 4: Ardea cinerea (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)
2. Ardea purpurea, Purple Heron: Purple herons are magnificent to behold due to their stunning feathers and majestic personality.

Figure 5: Ardea purpurea (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)
3. Halcyon smyrnensis, White-throated Kingfisher: Birdwatcher’s favourite for their vivid blue and its easily discernible call.

Figure 6: Halcyon smyrnensis (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)

4. Trachemys scripta elegans, Red-Eared Slider: These charming turtles are often spotted basking in the sun near the ponds. Although not native to Singapore, these turtles have made BAMK and other water bodies in Singapore their home.

Figure 7: Trachemys scripta elegans (Image courtesy of Domonic Tan)

Conservation Efforts and Challenges
BAMK’s commitment to nature conservation is evident through various initiatives. The park offers educational activities and tours to display its biodiversity and spread knowledge about the value of indigenous animals and plants in urban environments. Efforts are also underway to protect and enhance habitats to ensure that the park remains a thriving ecosystem for years to come.
As we explore Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park’s native wonders, it becomes apparent that this urban oasis is more than just a park —it is a physical example of how nature and the city can coexist in harmony. It reminds us of the beauty and importance of native flora and fauna in our urban parks, offering a serene escape and a chance to connect with the natural world right in the heart of Singapore.

Mangroves, the Green Shields of Singapore  

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) was a memory from my childhood, about trees and swamps. Unbeknownst to me, SBWR was one of the most important Nature reserves of Singapore. As I revisited it in 2023 with Dr. Gretchen Coffman and TA Kyle Weston for the GE3255 Aquatic, Riparian and Coastal System field course, I viewed the reserve in a whole new light. SBWR is the only surviving large coastal wetland reserve in land-scarce Singapore, acting as a coastal buffer, and a sanctuary for migratory birds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. 


Fig. 1: Satellite image of SBWR – Route Taken (Google Earth Pro. Credit: Ho Can Xing Peter)



The Nature of Mangroves

On the first part of our hike, Keith, one of our guides explained the characteristics of Mangroves. Mangroves have various morphological-adaptations to the low-oxygen levels and intertidal conditions. Cone and knee roots breach the surface to absorb more oxygen while prop and buttress roots support their weight in the mucky, oxygen depleted soils. The more seaward we went, there more adapted the Mangroves were to strong waves and low oxygen levels with increasing inundation. Their seed dispersal methods were also adapted as Keith showed us their slender, pointed shapes and its fluffy insides that enabled them to float. When I flicked one away, it landed in the mud straight up! Keith defined Mangroves as a group of species in a zone, rather than a single family. With that, we understood how Mangroves’ importance as their sturdy frames are coastal buffers against storm surges and provide habitats for critters like crustaceans and mudskippers. In a way, they are the ‘Green Shields of Singapore’


Fig. 2: Prop roots that provide structural support for a Mangrove (Credit: Joshua Yip)


Fig. 3: Elongated Mangrove seed pods (Credit: Joshua Yip)


Migratory Birds: Guests of Hotel Sungei Buloh

Across the bridge, we were received by Alan, a birdwatcher, who showed us the birds foraging in the shallow ponds. He explained their journey along the East Australasian Flyway to winter, and that they stop at SBWR to catch worms and crustaceans. Migratory species we identified included the Green Shank, Red Shank and Little Egret. We then begun to realize that Mangroves are not only important to ecosystems locally, but also globally.


Fig. 4: Birds foraging for worms and crustaceans (Credit: Ho Can Xing Peter)


Can these Green Shields cover other parts of Singapore and Beyond?

Mangroves play a key role in coastal protection as their sturdy structures with stilt and buttressed roots withstand powerful coastal waves. They also support unique ecosystems both local and regionally, like habitat for migratory birds on their long journeys. They are the ‘Green Shields of Singapore’ which also required their own space and conservation. Though looking at various areas along the coasts, it would be interesting if some of them like empty patches or golf courses were redeveloped as Mangrove forests. This would both bolster coastal protection and increase interconnectivity of various Mangrove forests around Singapore connecting us to the Southeast region and beyond.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: Why should Singaporeans be proud?

Figure 1. Milky stork (Mycteria cinerea) that is native to Singapore, foraging in the seaward zone of Sungei Buloh mangrove. (Photo credit: Kiara Tong)

Fellow nature lovers in Singapore, I am sure most of you have visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for bird watching, to spot some of the other charismatic animals or even just to unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city life. But have you ever wondered, other than just being a place for recreation, what is the importance of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve?  And why is there so much focus on the protection and conservation of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve?


Figure 2. Migratory birds found in the mudflat at Sungei Buloh. Image captured through a binocular. (Photo credits: Yan Zhi)

Sanctuary for migratory birds

Sungei Buloh is right in the middle of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, an important migratory route for many birds. Birds will often take long journeys to warmer areas to avoid winter conditions in their breeding grounds, Sungei Buloh not only acts as an important pit stop for them to regain their energy to continue travel further down south but is also a temporary home for many of the migratory birds to spend their winter here.

Figure 3. Pencil and knee roots of mangrove plants to help with taking in oxygen outside of the anoxic/hypoxic soil. (Photo Credit: Bryan Tan)

Blue Carbon

Soil in mangroves is constantly waterlogged, resulting in anoxic/hypoxic conditions. This is why you see the weird root adaptations that most mangrove plants have. Soil with poor oxygen conditions allow for these plants to thrive, however is typically bad for most other organisms including decomposers. As a result, unlike in terrestrial forest, any dead plant material gets buried by the oxygen-poor soil and decomposes slowly, storing the carbon within the soil for hundreds and thousands of years. This makes mangroves much better carbon sinks than terrestrial forests, hence making the restoration of mangroves one of the most effective strategies in tackling climate change.

Sungei Buloh as a model for mangrove restoration in Singapore

Sungei Buloh is the largest and oldest mangrove forest in mainland Singapore, it was established as a nature reserve since 1992 and since then the area of the nature reserve have expanded from 87 hectares to 202 hectares. Sungei Buloh, being an area that was historically developed for farming shows that restoration is possible even in degraded environments. Hopefully the success and knowledge learnt will inspire the restoration of other degraded mangroves in Singapore.






Returning to nature at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

What used to be a practical, concrete canal has turned into a lush, meandering waterway that we see at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio (BAMK) Park today. My NUS GE3255 Aquatic, Riparian, and Coastal Systems module went to the park to explore the restored Kallang River. We discovered that the park designers had used a combination of plants, natural minerals such as rocks, and civil engineering techniques to soften the river’s edges to give it a natural look yet still prevent erosion and expand flood control greatly.

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A City in Nature: How Singapore’s Rivers are Making a Comeback

Fig. 1. Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. Photo taken by Kathryn Tang.

Can you believe that there used to be natural rivers and streams flowing through Singapore? Beautifully clear waters, riverbanks lined with lush flora, animals freely dwelling in their native habitat – a little hard to imagine in our modern city-state. Though we already enjoy many benefits from being a “City in Nature”, river ecosystems are something that, though originally part of our island, remain sights that average Singaporeans must travel to see – either in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve or by outside of Singapore.

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Landward to Seaward

As a landscape architecture student who has had experience designing for freshwater ecosystems and urban waterways, I was excited to get my feet wet in the intricacies of the tidal recharge and discharge which mangrove ecosystems are built upon. Our field trip to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve with my NUS GE3255 Aquatic, Riparian, and Coastal Systems module succeeded in answering some of my curiosities as I saw the land’s transition with my own eyes, and then some!

Fig. 1: A view of the main bridge which spans across the vast central river channel

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Staying Rooted Amidst Adversity – A Closer Look at the Flora and Fauna of the Mangroves in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Back when I was working for the National Parks Board, I wrote a promotional article about Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) for its 25th anniversary. My field trip with my NUS GE3255 class was truly a reflective experience as I walked down memory lane in the process. Unfortunately, despite the positive experience and the desire to return, life kept getting in the way until now. Even after four years, it is still one of the most serene places yet to escape the concrete jungle of Singapore.

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Tough Trees need protection too!

Did you know that out of 70 true mangrove species in the world, 35 species can be found in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) alone? What makes SBWR even more unique is that it is the largest mangrove forest left on mainland Singapore.

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