Titles and abstracts


Ref: R5
Marine Biodiversity Research at the Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS
Dr. Tan Koh Siang
Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS.

It is well known that the marine environment in Singapore is characterized by high biodiversity (i.e., large number of biological species per unit area). However, our ability to recognize and identify marine organisms is still rather limited, so much so that assessment and monitoring of the health of our marine ecosystems cannot be carried out satisfactorily. Perhaps with the exception of marine plants, scleractinian corals, decapod crustaceans, gastropod and bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, fish and other vertebrates, most other marine organisms cannot be readily identified. As new species continue to be described from the marine habitats in Singapore, even less is known about the ecological roles of common marine flora and fauna. At TMSI, preliminary efforts are now being made to address some of these shortcomings. In particular, studies of natural and artificial habitats including mangroves, estuarine reefs, tidal monsoon drains, seawalls and navigation buoys are beginning to reveal hitherto undocumented sponge, polychaete, molluscan and ascidian diversity. Undesirable marine growth (or fouling) are startlingly diverse, beginning with marine bacteria. In addition to these systematic studies, other on-going projects aim to analyse the life history of common marine organisms in different habitats, with particular emphasis on microhabitat utilisation, growth, reproduction and predator-prey relationships. The results of these studies will not only provide the necessary baseline for robust environmental impact assessment of man’s activities in Singapore, but also contribute towards a better understanding of the tropical marine environment in Southeast Asia, of which we know so little.