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MEM Alumni Seminar 2015 with Nature Society

NUS Alumni and NSS joint seminar explores how communities can help nurture nature

Singapore’s natural landscape has undergone an immense transformation over the last 50 years, along with the city state’s rapid social and economic development.  Singaporeans have gradually shown their realisation of the value of the country’s flora and fauna, especially in the past two decades.

Singapore treads carefully between development and nature, thanks to active involvement of conservation communitiesAs part of the celebration of this year's SG50 golden jubilee, alumni from NUS's Masters in Environmental Management (MEM) course, together with the Nature Society (Singapore), will hold an interactive program of free seminars and walks to share their reflections on how conservation has been fostered in our communities.

The four-week program, which starts on 16 May, is titled "Nurturing Nature with Community Involvement". It aims to highlight how Singapore's view of nature and community conservation has changed since 1965.

Speakers including Dr Shawn Lum, President, Nature Society (Singapore), Dr Liew Kai Khiun, Nanyang Technological University, Tony O'Dempsey, Nature Society (Singapore), and Mallika Naguran, Gaia Discovery.

Topics will cover current issues including including nature-friendly development, ecology in the community, conflict resolution, the role of social media, education, and heritage-sensitive conservation across Singapore's varied community groups.

The half-day seminar session, from 8.30 - 14.00 on 16 May, will be held at the Auditorium, Shaw Foundation Alumni House, NUS, 11 Kent Ridge Drive, S119244.

It will include a vegetarian lunch and a free book exchange for attendees, specialising in nature and conservation publications.

The seminar will be followed up by weekly Saturday-morning Guided Nature Walks, held at the Botanic Gardens (looking at heritage trees), the Central Catchment Reserve (exploring Singapore's biodiversity) and at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (investigating mangrove and coastal biodiversity). These will be held on May 23, 30 and June 6 respectively. Expert guides from the Nature Society (Singapore) will be on hand to expand on the topics previously covered in the seminars.

For more details, location maps and registration on the MEM Alumni Seminar 2015.


Bee habitats: Natural, industrial, even underground

Bees aren’t all alike. Tens of thousands of different bee species exist around the world, and they all like different habitats. Encouraging different species to settle in restored habitat is even more complex. By J.Green

Megachilid bees have been the subject of much research

Edinburgh, 17 March 2015- The UK currently has more than 260 bee species, with some 26 of those being social (that is, they live in swarms, nests or hives). There are also 25 native bumblebee species but sadly two have recently become extinct. While there are still many types of bees, research shows bee diversity has significantly decreased in more than 50% of the UK’s landscapes since 1980.

Recent research from the UK-based Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has confirmed that the situation for British bees is pretty dire. Some 75% of the UK is agricultural land. And because of that, researchers estimate around 97% of natural bee habitat - wildflower meadows, small woods, open heather moors – is gone. As a result, “bees have significantly declined over the 20th century,” says the report. That is an understatement.

But bee help is at hand. To combat these trends, the authorities have initiated a program that pays subsidies to landowners for the “intensification of landscape quality.” Farmers chose wildlife-friendly options to qualify for those subsidies, which can total GBP280 a year. One common outcome of this subsidy is natural strip of land left at the edge of existing farmland. There, a mix of agricultural plants and grasses that bees like are added. Bumblebees take to agricultural legumes, while sunflowers are also good for bees.

Strips of land at the edge of a field provide essential bee habitat

In one recent project, ecologists tested a few different options. In land where were there simply crops, there was no value for bees. In areas without pesticides, there was likewise a limited response. Where the “natural generation of plant communities” was allowed, there was also only a limited response. The key to making bees feel at home is creating sites that offer pollen and nectar, with a diverse seed mix. This, says the research, results in a “significant response” from bees.

Bees and Seeds

But a single seed mix, no matter how diverse, will “not have sustained benefits,” say researchers. There is also a seasonal component; some plants die off. So flowering plants that offer nectar need to be re-sown every 3-4 years, and a diverse plant mix ensured that includes perennials.

Former mining sites are a surprising potential bee habitat, and are found everywhere in the world. Given all the untapped land, there are lots of opportunities to restore them as habitat for bees. Karen Goodell, an ecology professor at Ohio State University has investigated mining sites as a potential new home for bees.

She says reclaimed mines “can aid bee conservation,” but they will not be as good as remnant or untouched habitat. It’s difficult to restore plant communities that existed in mining areas before. Forests can be re-created, but a full ecosystem is more difficult. Goodell says “floral diversity and abundance will positively affect bee recruitment,” so consequently bees will be less diverse in reclaimed mining sites than in remnant habitats.

Karen Goodell researches bee ecology at Ohio State UniversityIn a study of 24 sites at The Wilds, a leading conservation site in Ohio, Goodell netted bee species, counted floral resources, and assessed nest habitat. She looked at sites that were closer and further away from natural habitat, looking specifically at Megachilid bees, which are more solitary than honey bees and nest on or in the ground. Strikingly, she found that the abundance of floral resources wasn’t really important - but restoring nesting substrate was far more critical. The ‘nesting subtrate’ includes stem wood and bare soil but the use of additional artificial nest substitutes didn’t help the bees feel at home. “It’s important that habitats, whether they are restored or not, have ample hollow stem wood lying around, shrubs, dead wood, and bare ground, if you want to attract (Megachilid) bees,” she noted.

Ecosystem Restoration

Another bee expert, Neal Williams from the University of California, Davis, confirms the transformation of wild areas into agricultural areas is the primary reason for bee habitat loss. Near the Sacramento River in California, a group of farmers and other activists are restoring an 80-kilometer stretch along the river banks from Red Bluff to Chico. Williams’ is studying the community of pollinators in the restored fragments and comparing them to remnant riparian forests while looking for “persistent differences” that stand out between the two areas.

Williams says the sites were successfully restored - a mono-cultural walnut orchard landscape was turned back into a forest - but now there is no understory which meant the bees came back, but not to a thriving overall ecosystem composition.

But bees are essential for both ecosystem health, and for the honey industry too. With around 85% of the world’s flowering plants needing a bee or other pollinator in order to reproduce, these tiny insects are crucial to our survival.

So much so that in California, more than 3,500 truckloads of bees are trucked in every spring from other, less intensively-farmed parts of America to pollinate over 1 million acres of almond trees during their three-week spring bloom.

So it looks like although some dedicated activists are working hard to keep the bees happy with new homes, there is nothing like original, pristine habitat for a happy hive. Farmers in the UK are doing their best, thanks to the government subsidy, but simply describing empty land as a potential bee haven is not realistic. Bees need a complete ecosystem to thrive. The best way to ensure that – and a good supply of honey for us all – is to avoid turning pristine land into mines or wheat fields.

For more information look to : https://eeob.osu.edu/people/goodell.18; http://www.ceh.ac.uk; http://www.helpabee.org




The Ubin Project Update: What Singaporeans Want

Friends of Ubin is a project set up by the Ministry of National Development (MND) to preserve and enhance the island. Pulau Ubin has a long and rich history, therein lies its uniqueness as it retains much of its old rustic charm and biodiversity.

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Habitat Highs with Pulau Ubin Reforestation

One hundred trees were planted at Tanjong Tajam, Pulau Ubin. This was the first dig into a series of reforestation efforts to reverse the damage done to three hectares of burnt area that was once lush secondary forest with diverse flora and fauna.

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Singapore's First Marine Park to Protect Ecosystems

Singapore's first Marine Park was announced last week at the Festival of Biodiversity. The Sisters' Island Marine Park will span some 40 hectares around Sisters' Islands and along the western reefs of St John's Island and Pulau Tekukuor.

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Economic Benefit of Hawaii National Park Tourism

A total of 4.9 million visitors to Hawaiian national parks spent $312 million and supported 3,665 jobs in the state last year - according to a new National Park Service (NPS) report.

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Javan Rhino Threatened by Invasive Palm

The last of Indonesia's critically endangered Javan rhinoceroses have survived poachers, rapid deforestation and life in the shadow of one of the archipelago's most active volcanoes. But an invasive plant is now posing a new threat to the world's rarest species of rhino.

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Philippines Deforestation Threats and Reforestation Issues

A couple of years ago, the Philippine Congress released a study that said about 123,000 hectares of the country’s forest cover are lost every year. Unless reforestation is started, the study further stated, there would be no forest left in the country by 2036 – that’s exactly 23 years from now.

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Trees Save Lives: US Forestry Report

Everybody knows trees are nice. They are green, shady, they smell nice and they provide fruit and flowers to keep us happy. But new studies by the US Forestry Service and others have discovered that trees can help you live longer too. By Jeremy Torr & Phil Stamper.

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Trees Reclaim Shipwrecks in Sydney Harbour

Industrialisation doesn’t always wreck the environment. Sometimes it provides a new opportunity for nature to re-establish its roots; literally. In Homebush Bay, off Sydney Harbour in Australia, the native bush has found an unlikely nursery – on an abandoned ship.

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Monkey Business: Living with Macaques in Urbanised Singapore

Singapore's increasing need for housing has led to development encroaching onto the edge of nature reserves, the home of wild creatures such as macaques. And there are challenges as nature brushes against human comforts, with macaques being lured towards entrapment and taken away permanently from their natural habitats. Fiona Childs speaks to primatology student Amanda Tan on these issues, to explore how residents can better manage the situation, and to put the whole monkey business to a peaceful rest.

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Pulau Ketam: Potential Ecosystem Nucleus in Singapore 

A group of passionate people are putting their heads together (and getting their feet muddy) to create a learning centre on Pulau Ketam. Not just any ordinary centre, but a low impact, self-sustaining and ecological friendly zone to promote learning and nature appreciation. Mallika Naguran from Gaia Discovery joins this group as a volunteer and brings us the inside story.

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Philippine Wildlife Species Declining Rapidly

What does it take to save the iconic eagle and saltwater crocodiles that are endemic to the Philippines? What causes species decline?

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Jungle in Crisis: Indonesians Act to Stop Deforestation

Recent efforts to save the forests of Borneo and Sumatra provide evidence that with help from concerned people, the current tide of jungle destruction can and will turn. By Kayti Denham.

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Mangrove Forest Deforestation in the Philippines

Many think deforestation happens only in the uplands as cutting the trees means loss of lives and livelihoods as the raging waters from the higher areas bring floods and landslides. Unknowingly, deforestation continues unabated, too, in the lowlands – particularly those near the seashores and rivers. Mangroves, which most people consider as unimportant, are fast disappearing.

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Navicula Kalimantan Tour: Save Rainforests, Save Orangutans Now

When rainforests continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate and helpless animals such as orangutans suffer in silence, one band has decided not to look the other way. Navicula, instead, is about to voice its objections loud and clear in its upcoming tour in Kalimantan.

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Why Trees Matter

Did you know that BILLIONS of trees have died in recent years? Beetle attacks, asian fungus and drought are taking out North America's ancient alpine bristlecones, Texan shade trees and parts of the Amazon. Any reader of this site knows that trees planted in the right places help fight climate change. But they help make our planet liveable in a number of other ways too, from fertilising plankton to providing the basis for medicines. Learn more . . . .

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Singapore Biodiversity Encyclopedia Launched

Spearheaded by NUS researchers, Singapore's first ever biodiversity encyclopedia is published, covering over 200 years of Singapore's rich natural history

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New Species Discovery in Papua New Guinea Remote Mountains

Some 200 news species of animals and plants, including an orange spider, a jabbing spiny-legged katydid (bush cricket) and a minute long-nosed frog, have been discovered in Papua New Guinea's remote jungle-clad mountains.

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Gulf of Mexico Environmental Disaster: A Subsea Blowout Not Oil Spill, And Other Hard Facts

What happened in the Gulf was a subsea blowout. There is a world of difference between a spill and a blowout, says George H.Croy, who also points out other facts missed by most critics.

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