Conservation Biogeography of Singapore and Beyond

Our Field Trip Experience exploring the Tropical Rainforest and Keppel Wetlands at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Hydrilla Begone: Invasive Species That Destroy Our Ecosystem

On Saturday, 4th February, Prof Gretchen brought my GE4224 (Applied Biogeography) class to the Learning Forest Wetlands at Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) as one of our field sites.

Photo 1: Map of Singapore Botanic Gardens (Source: National Parks Board)

As we arrived at the venue itself, I felt indifferent. The weather was hot, there were not many animals in sight such as birds flying in harmony (maybe just one or two kingfishers if you pay really close attention), and neither were there ample signs of aquatic life such as fishes in the lakes.

Photo 2: Overview of Learning Forest Wetlands (Source: National Parks Board)

While it seemed like a pretty well constructed natural landscape, there was not much going on. As I was taking a moment to appreciate the view, Prof Gretchen posed a question, “So what is one word you would use to describe the landscape?” I remember responding to her question and using the word “undisturbed”. Prof Gretchen replied to me, “Are you sure this place is undisturbed?” and got me to take a closer look at the contents of the lake.

Photo 3: Hydrilla verticillata found in the lake (Source: Mikaail Indra)

Upon closer inspection, I did realize that the lake was filled with this invasive species, Hydrilla verticillata. It is considered one of the most invasive plant species in the world and can have significant impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Here are some impacts that this noxious weed has on our ecosystem:

  1. Competition with native aquatic plants: Hydrilla can outcompete native aquatic plant species for resources such as light, nutrients, and space.
  2. Habitat destruction: Hydrilla can cause dense mats on the surface of the water, which can block sunlight and reduce oxygen levels in the water, inadvertently killing fishes, and other aquatic species.
  1. Economic impact: Hydrilla can also have economic impacts by clogging irrigation systems and water intakes, reducing property values, and increasing costs for water treatment and management.

Photo 4: An example of a bird species hunting for food within the lake (Source: Mikaail Indra)

SBG is home to many rare and endangered plant species that the botanists have planted here for ex-situ conservation. Thus, human intervention is necessary to preserve and protect these species from extinction by providing suitable habitats, managing invasive species, and monitoring their population sizes. Moreover, as a horticultural center, it is also important to manage the gardens, and through the removal of Hydrilla, helps to ensure that these species remain healthy and attractive to visitors. From a wider perspective, SBG is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and their beauty and aesthetic value is important for their continued popularity. Human intervention is necessary to maintain the garden’s appearance, such as managing the landscape, planting seasonal flowers, and organizing events.

Photo 5: One of my favorite pictures of Singapore Botanic Gardens from a blog (Source: Ali Mohamad)

As I learnt more about the agenda by the authorities to preserve and protect the ecosystem of SBG, I also realized that letting nature take its own course is not always a good thing. Invasive species are dominative in nature, and if we were to allow the natural landscape to be left “undisturbed”, it can cause even more harm than good.


By: Mikaail Indra

Tigers in the Singapore Botanic Gardens?


Do not doubt your eyes! Tigers are in the Botanic Gardens! Well…they are not exactly the copper-coated feline that we are familiar with, but they bear similar striking golden patterns as the warm-blooded creature. We are talking about the magnificent Tiger Orchid (Grammatophyllum speciosum), the largest orchid species in the world!

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Unwelcomed guests: Invasive species

More plants and animals mean a healthier ecosystem, right? Well, this is not necessarily so. Plants and animals in the form of invasive species are actually causing global biodiversity loss. What are invasive species? Invasive species refer to animals or plants that are non-native and introduced. During my recent field trip to the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG), I saw quite a few invasive species.

First, let me introduce to you the Keppel Discovery Wetlands which is Continue reading

Designing a Terrarium: Singapore Botanic Garden Learning Forest as a Tropical Rainforest Terrarium

To the globe-trotting backpackers, mentioning equatorial Southeast Asia brings to mind emerald tropical rainforests weaving through the region. Stretched to the horizon and back in time, Southeast Asia’s tropical rainforest is home to 15% of the world’s tropical forests, and is amongst the most biologically-rich ecosystems. However, they are often inaccessible.

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Keppel Discovery Wetlands: A Collaboration Between Man and Nature

Figure 1. A Snapshot of Keppel Discovery Wetlands

(Source: Wong Hui Jie)


We’ve all heard of the term ‘Man vs Nature’— the destruction of forests, the pollution of oceans, and what about the otter attack at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)?

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Ignorance is Not Bliss: The Challenges Surrounding Conservation

Where can you find a rainforest and a wetlands side by side? Two Saturdays ago, I experienced just that – a tour by Prof. Gretchen of the Keppel Discovery Wetlands as well as Tyersall Learning Forest, two restored ecosystems in the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG). They support a dizzying variety of biodiversity and provide a chance to get up close with unique species such as the world’s largest orchid, the tiger orchid, as well as towering dipterocarp trees, characteristic of tropical rainforests. (It’s a must-see for anyone who wants to learn about Singapore’s natural landscapes of the past!) On the tour, I learnt about the conservation and restoration work that SBG has been engaged in and began to understand the challenges surrounding conservation.

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Are we ready to be a ‘City in Nature’?

On the 11th of May, 1967, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced the ‘Garden City’ vision for Singapore. This vision aimed to transform Singapore into a clean city with an abundance of greenery to help improve the livelihood of its people.

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Superpowers of rainforest plants in Singapore Botanical Garden’s Learning Forest

Ever wondered what would natural superpowers look like? I was delighted to witness some exhibited by the tropical lowland rainforest plants during my GE4224 Fieldtrip. Under the guidance of Dr Gretchen, we visited the Learning Forest located in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanical Gardens on 12th February 2022. This area was slated for restoration as part of the larger Tyersall-Gallop Core and adopts a framework species reforestation method where the existing non-native rubber trees support the growth of native trees before the former is removed from the area upon substantial restoration.

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Keppel Discovery Wetland – The Human Engineered Wetland Swamp Forest

When it comes to wetlands in tropical Singapore, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the mangroves lining along Singapore’s remaining natural coastlines. However, you may not have come across the freshwater swamp forests that used to cover 16% of Singapore’s land mass.

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The Past, Present and Future Garden of Singapore

In 100 years, Singapore grew from a small colonial port into one of the world’s most well-developed and modern cities.  But, what did this transformation cost? Although we claim to be a  “garden” city, many of our original forests, wetlands and mangroves have already been destroyed. A few weeks ago, I visited the Keppel Discovery Wetland in Singapore Botanical Garden (SBG), the last refuge for Singapore’s endangered freshwater wetland species. The field trip was part of NUS GE4224 Applied Biogeography module.

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