Looking forward, the NUS study projects a grim future if deforestation continues unabated in Southeast Asia, forecasting an 18% species loss by century’s end.
A groundbreaking study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) has brought to light the stark reality of biodiversity decline in Singapore, with an estimated 37% of flora and fauna species lost in the last 200 years. This comprehensive research, spearheaded by Associate Professor Ryan Chisholm of the NUS Department of Biological Sciences, delves deep into the ecological consequences of relentless urban development and deforestation in this tropical city-state.
RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS
The inclusion of ‘Dark Extincion’
Employing innovative statistical models, Chisholm’s team meticulously analyzed over 50,000 biodiversity records spanning more than 3,000 species across two centuries. This data encompasses a diverse range of groups including plants, birds, mammals (with the exception of bats and marine species), reptiles, phasmids, bees, butterflies, freshwater decapod crustaceans, and freshwater fish. A significant aspect of their methodology was the inclusion of “dark extinctions” — species that vanished before they could even be documented or discovered.
Remarkably, the study’s findings indicate a 37% species loss, a figure that, while alarming, is considerably lower than a 2003 estimate which also accounted for dark extinctions. The researchers highlighted that certain species groups, particularly larger mammals, forest-dependent birds, orchids, and butterflies, are disproportionately at risk of extinction.
Looking forward, the NUS study projects a grim future if deforestation continues unabated in Southeast Asia, forecasting an 18% species loss by century’s end. However, it suggests that most species could survive in human-dominated landscapes of the future, with extinctions likely affecting large charismatic species — those with significant aesthetic appeal or cultural importance, like pandas and elephants.
Chisholm and his team advocate for a strategic focus on conserving these charismatic species, a move that would inherently protect other species sharing their habitats. This approach is seen as synergistic with broader conservation objectives, including carbon stock protection critical for climate change mitigation.
The researchers propose a targeted conservation effort for species such as langurs, pangolins, hornbills, and butterflies, which can thrive in urban landscapes with adequate conservation support. This study raises poignant questions about the ecological price of Singapore’s rapid urban expansion, offering a critical examination of the balance between development and environmental preservation.