Urban ecological research in Singapore and its relevance to the advancement of urban ecology and sustainability


The drastic changes in the natural environment of Singapore from the beginning of recorded settlements to the present day present numerous opportunities for understanding how urbanization has affected the ecology of the island city-state. On the one hand, the almost complete clearing of the original tropical lowland forests and the ensuing catastrophic extinction of the original biodiversity, suggest how cities ought to avoid the same developmental pathway. On the other hand, the relatively high percentage of vegetation cover that the city has achieved due to effective urban greening policies suggest that opportunities still exist to restore functions associated with a healthy urban ecosystem. This paper reviewed urban ecological research on Singapore conducted between 1991 and 2012, and summarized the key findings according to the state factors of an urban ecosystem. The review showed that the large majority of the studies were focused on biodiversity, and were on the ecology in a city. It revealed gaps in urban ecological knowledge of Singapore, especially in relation to how studies on the ecology of the city need to link urban ecological research to issues of urban sustainability. Three key strategies are suggested to advance knowledge in this area. These are, to focus on long-term ecological studies in Singapore as an example of a high-density equatorial urban ecosystem, to consciously treat the built component of the urban environment as a key component of urban ecological studies, and to leverage the strong interests in eco-city development as field experimental sites for urban ecological studies.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Puay Yok Tan, National University of Singapore
Abdul Rahim bin Abdul Hamid
Landscape and Urban Planning