Coral Reefs in Singapore

Importance of coral reefs

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. According to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (n.d.), they support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. This includes around 4,000 species of fish and 800 species of hard corals (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, n.d.). Beyond this, corals provide coastal protection by reducing about 97 percent of energy from waves. They therefore play a vital role in protecting coastal communities from violent storms. Coral reefs also provide jobs and income to fishing communities who depend on them for fishing and coastal protection. Many local economies earn income through diving tours, fishing trips and other tourism-related businesses. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is worth more than $100 million (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, n.d.; Veron et al., 2009). Furthermore, as corals have very sensitive living conditions, corals have developed chemical compounds to defend themselves (NOAA, n.d.). Scientists posit that these chemical compounds present in coral reefs have the potential to create the next great medical breakthrough (NOAA, n.d.). Reef organisms have been used to treat certain cancers such as leukemia and other tumours. Therefore, it is clear that we need to protect coral reefs as it plays multiple important roles for humans. 


What coral biodiversity does Singapore house and where to find them

Map of coral reefs in Singapore (Loh et al., 2006, as cited in Reef Ecology Lab, n.d.)

While many may not be familiar, the coral biodiversity in Singapore is in fact diverse, where 255 species of hard corals and 111 species of reef fish are located in Singapore’s waters (Huang et al., 2009, as cited in Reef Ecology Lab, n.d.). As seen in the map above, most of Singapore’s reefs are found in the waters near the Southern Islands while some coral patches can be found in intertidal zones, such as Changi beach and Labrador Park. 

More images of coral biodiversity can be found here: https://coralreef.nus.edu.sg/gallery/fishes.html

Recent developments in coral restoration program in Singapore 

A 10 metre tall man-made reef structure installed in Sister’s Island Marine Park. Source: (Ong, n.d., as cited in Teh, 2018)

Due to the years of land reclamation, shipping activities and other developments in Singapore’s waters, it is estimated that Singapore has lost more than half of its reefs (Reef Ecology Lab, n.d.).This was also exacerbated by increasing sea surface temperatures which eventually led to mass bleaching in 2016.

As such, in late 2018, Singapore installed a 10 metre tall man-made reef structure in Sisters’ Island Marine Park, which is known to be the largest man-made reef structure ever, to promote coral growth. This project will potentially allow up to 1,000 square meters of new coral cover by 2030 (Teh, 2018). 

This project will include eight reef structures and each of these 10 metre tall structures will form house corals and act as a sanctuary for other marine organisms to reside and thrive in (Teh, 2018). What’s great about these structures, apart from promoting coral biodiversity, is that they are made of recycled materials such as concrete and fibreglass pipes.

What part can we (the public) play in their conservation

The National Parks Board has a local plant-a-coral initiative held where individuals can donate, with a minimum of $200, for NParks to plant a coral into our reefs. NParks will also send a photo update of your sponsored coral every 6 months for 3 years. 

Individually, we can practice environmentally-friendly habits such as picking up litter, not littering and reducing our use of plastic. We can also encourage our friends and family to avoid littering as excessive trash in our waters can degrade our reefs and the biodiversity it houses. Finally, we can also lend a hand by volunteering for coastal clean ups, or even giving guided trails in Sister’s Island Marine Park, which help more people gain awareness of our local coral biodiversity.

More information on how to apply can be found here or on their Instagram page: @sgmarineparks

I hope this post has provided you interesting and educational information on coral reefs in Singapore! Thanks for reading! 

Written by: Letitia

References: 

Coral Guardian. (n.d.). Why are coral reefs so important?. Retrieved from: 

Graham, N.A.J., Nash, K.L. (2013). The importance of structural complexity in coral reef 

ecosystems. Coral Reefs 32, 315–326. Retrieved from: https://doi-org.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/10.1007/s00338-012-0984-y

NOAA. (n.d.). The Importance of Coral Reefs. Retrieved from: 

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html

Reef Ecology Lab. (n.d.). Coral Reefs of Singapore. Retrieved from: 

https://coralreef.nus.edu.sg/singapore.html

Scripps Institution of Oceanography. (n.d.). Value of Corals. Retrieved from: 

Teh, C. (2018). Singapore’s largest reef structure installed. Retrieved from: 

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/singapores-largest-reef-structure-installed

Veron, J. E. N., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Lenton, T. M., Lough, J. M., Obura, D. O., 

Pearce-Kelly, P., . . . Rogers, A. D. (2009). The coral reef crisis: The critical importance of<350 ppm CO2. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58(10), 1428-1436. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.09.009

Wee, L. (2017). Sisters’ Islands Marine Park has more to offer than just dive trails

Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/coral-islands

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