Research Question

Do we value our nature reserves differently in Singapore?

Green spaces are increasingly being recognised as a fundamental component of any urban ecosystem (Yuen, 1996; WHO, n.d). In Singapore, green spaces designated for biodiversity conservation such as the four nature reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR), Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), Labrador Nature Reserve (LNR) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), are critical habitats for wildlife as they remain the last remnant of a rainforest habitat that once covered the island and are an important last refuge in an increasingly urbanised environment (Lim, 1997; Chatterjea, 2012). Furthermore, as cities mature and become increasingly affluent, urbanites realise the myriad of benefits, in particular improved quality of life, related to increased nature contact through various activities, further emphasizing the role of nature in urban culture (Priego et al., 2008). This is corroborated by Yuen (1996), who mentioned that ‘Nearby nature’ plays an important role in the recovery from mental fatigue (Kaplan & Kaplan, 2005).

As cities are comprised of individuals from a diverse range of socio- and cultural-demographics, behavioural patterns and perception of protected biodiversity habitats such as nature reserves may vary with different urban societies (Khew et al., 2014; Priego et al., 2008).

Urban nature reserves are also different from rural nature reserves. While urban nature reserves are created to safeguard ecologically or sometimes culturally important landscapes and the flora and fauna in them, they are also designed for urbanites to seek respite from urban stresses in nature that are usually scarce in cities (Wasilewski et al., 2019). However, it is crucial that the “social” and “nature conservation” objectives of urban nature reserves are balanced (Wasilewski et al., 2019). If the recreational use of nature reserves is too intense and the nature reserves are not properly adapted for such a high level of recreational use, conflicts may arise and threaten to undermine the nature reserves’ ability to protect its biodiversity (Thomas & Reed, 2019; Wasilewski et al., 2019). For example, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve had to be closed for maintenance works from 2014 to 2016 due to heavy usage and trampling, and required repair works and enhancements to better safeguard the reserve’s biodiversity (Chatterjea, 2019). Several other studies have linked recreational activities to negative impacts on biodiversity such as a reduction in wildlife abundance or activity (Reed & Merenlender, 2008), changes in spatial or temporal use of habitats (George & Crooks, 2006), lower reproductive success (Finney et al., 2005), change in behavior (Geoffroy et al., 2015), and alteration of species richness and community composition (Kangaset et al., 2010).  

As such, our study aims to investigate how the various socio-demographics in Singapore could lead to differences in perception and valuation of the four nature reserves. We also aim to identify the primary purpose of visitorship for each nature reserve. With these findings, we hope to assist in the formulation of effective interventions that could address the differences in valuation of each nature reserve as well as safeguarding areas of high environmental importance while providing the nature experience that urbanites seek.

Chatterjea, K. (2012). Sustainability of an urban forest: Bukit Timah nature reserve, Singapore. Sustainable forest management-case studies.

Chatterjea, K. (2019). Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: a forest in transition. Gard. Bull. Singapore, 71(Suppl 1), 419-440.

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (2005). Preference, restoration, and meaningful action in the context of nearby nature. Urban place: Reconnecting with the natural world, 271-298.

Khew, J. Y. T., Yokohari, M., & Tanaka, T. (2014). Public perceptions of nature and landscape preference in Singapore. Human ecology, 42(6), 979-988.

Lim, K. S. (1997). Bird biodiversity in the nature reserves of Singapore. In Proceedings of the Nature Reserves Survey Seminar. Garden’s Bull. Singapore (Vol. 49, pp. 225-244).

Priego, C., Breuste, J. H., & Rojas, J. (2008). Perception and value of nature in urban landscapes: a comparative analysis of cities in Germany, Chile and Spain. Landscape Online, 7(1), 22.

Thomas, S. L., & Reed, S. E. (2019). Entrenched ties between outdoor recreation and conservation pose challenges for sustainable land management. Environmental Research Letters, 14(11), 115009.

Wasilewski, M., Szulczewska, B., & Giedych, R. (2019). Visitors’ Perception of Urban Nature Reserves in Poland. Sustainability, 11(14), 3768.

Yuen, B. (1996). Use and experience of neighborhood parks in Singapore. Journal of Leisure Research, 28(4), 293-311.



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