Marine Biodiversity

Singapore is located within one of the few epicentres of marine biological diversity in the world, with more than 8000 species of animals and plants recorded from the island nation. Yet we know little about the natural history and taxonomy of marine organisms, which are the raw ingredients of knowledge required for effective marine environmental conservation and management.


This program aims to study biodiversity on the seashores and in the waterways around Singapore, as well as to examine sustainable ways to conserve and manage our living heritage.



Tethycometes radicosa sp. nov.

Lim & Tan (2008). Zootaxa Vol. 1841, pp. 65-68.

(Scale bar: 5mm)



::Project Highlights

Marine molluscan biodiversity of Singapore waters
In spite of efforts in the past to describe and document the invertebrate fauna in Singapore waters, our knowledge of taxonomy and systematics of marine molluscs remains largely rudimentary. We know even less about their biology: their distribution, abundance, diet, growth, reproduction and dispersal are unknown even for common species. This study aims to identify and evaluate taxonomically problematic groups in Singapore and Southeast Asia using modern taxonomic methods. It also examines the biology of some of the Singapore's common shore molluscs in Singapore. The results will provide us with the necessary baseline knowledge to understand and conserve our living heritage.
Biodiversity of Sponges in Singapore

Marine sponges in Singapore, despite their common occurrence on natural and man-made habitats, are poorly known. Sponges can occupy substantial areas on intertidal and subtidal reefs in Singapore, and form an important component of marine biodiversity in our waters. The current understanding is that the sponge fauna in the tropical Indo-West Pacific is considerably more diverse than previously thought. While pharmaceutical interest in marine natural products have resulted in increased exploitation and research into these organisms worldwide, our taxonomic knowledge of sponges in tropical Southeast Asia have lagged significantly behind those available elsewhere and is in urgent need of clarification. The unprecedented loss of marine habitats due to urbanization of the Singapore coastline over the last 50 years has also highlighted the urgent need to document the biodiversity of existing marine communities. This is particularly relevant in the light of formulating effective management plans for conservation and rehabilitation of the marine environment in Singapore. At the same time, it is also important that the public be made aware of the living marine resources available in Singapore waters. Current research at TMSI aims to identify common sponges in Singapore waters to the highest taxonomic level possible with support from the National Parks Board and Singapore Science Centre. Elucidation of their biology and ecology, particularly in relation to habitat restoration and enhancement, are also actively pursued at TMSI in collaboration with the Housing and Development Board and Surbana International Consultants Pte Ltd.


Thermal biology of tropical marine invertebrates

The effect of global climate change on tropical marine organisms is at best poorly understood. There is at present very little work to address the shortfall in knowledge, particularly for invertebrates in the tropics. Changes to composition and habitat structure of tropical marine ecosystems cannot be modelled and predicted, if baseline data concerning their response to temperature rise are unavailable. TMSI, in collaboration with scientists at the British Antarctic Survey, and with generous support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), aims to determine underlying mechanisms that enable tropical invertebrates to cope (or not) with high, but often stable environmental temperatures. Comparisons with phylogenetically related animals elsewhere in the world will provide the necessary perspective to understand the basic biology of thermal tolerance and acclimatization in ectotherms. This collaborative work, which is planned to parallel on-going studies being carried out in Antarctica, presents unique opportunities for examining how animals respond and behave at the opposite ends of the temperature spectrum from a global standpoint.


Urban Development in the Coastal Zone: Garden Cities in the Sea

The Singapore coastline is heavily utilised for a wide range of economic and recreational activities. Recognizing biodiversity as “green lungs” for our heavily utilised seaways and the potential of landscaping to create marine habitats as nature recreation-cum-conservation areas, the project focuses on design concepts for our coastlines to enhance native biodiversity.  The “Garden Cities in the Sea” project, funded by the Ministry of National Development, brings together a multidisciplinary research team consisting of biologists, engineers and mathematicians from TMSI, Surbana Corporation Pte Ltd and the Housing Development Board of Singapore. The economic benefits include concepts and technologies that may be used in coastal rehabilitation projects elsewhere in the tropics, such as in the to re-mediation of the degraded coast lines in many developing coastal cities in Southeast Asia. These ideas will help to reduce the negative impacts of urban development on biodiversity as they create habitats for the marine life in man-made infrastructure, and provide green corridors in the seas around coastal cities.


Webmaster Login top