08 January 2010

BioD in the City: What is the Singapore Index?

In 2008, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities. The number and size of cities will continue to grow. At the same time, biodiversity is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Successful biodiversity conservation must thus involve city dwellers. But how can city dwellers monitor their efforts at biodiversity conservation?
View of the city from Pulau Tekukor, one of our natural shores.

Enter, the Singapore Index. A self-assessment tool to help evaluate and benchmark the health of biodiversity in cities.

NParks chief executive Ng Lang said: 'You can't manage what you can't measure. So it will create a more scientific approach to helping countries know where they stand relative to others.'

The Index was first proposed by Singapore in 2008 at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The Index was further developed by National Parks Board (NParks), in collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD and experts from various countries. In acknowledgement of Singapore’s contribution and leadership, the Secretariat of the CBD formally named the index, “The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity” or “The Singapore Index”.

A draft of the Index (pdf) is now available on the CBD website.

The Index measures "Biodiversity in the City" including factors such as: % of natural/semi-natural areas, diversity of ecosystems, measures of fragementation of ecosystems, number of native species, proportion of native species (as opposed to invasive alien species), % of protected areas (as "protected areas indicate the government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation").

The Index also considers "Ecosystem Services provided by the Native Biodiversity in the City" such as Freshwater Services, Carbon Sequestration, Recreation and educational services, and Other Environmental Services such as air pollution reduction, cooling effect, erosion control, coastal protection

The Index also looks at "Governance and Management of Biodiversity in the City" including:
  • Biodiversity Programmes and/or Projects such as species recovery, biodiversity surveys, biodiversity enhancement projects;
  • Rules, Regulations & Policy in particular, the creation of National Strategy and Action Plans (Singapore has one!);
  • Institutional Capacity (e.g., biodiversity centre, herbarium, zoological museum, botanical garden, zoo, insectarium, etc.) with an evaluation of inter-agencycoordination.
Currently, seven cities (Curitiba, Joondalup, Edmonton, Brussels, Montreal, Nagoya and Singapore) have are testing the draft Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity by evaluating the availability of data.

At least 10 other cities have indicated interest in test-bedding the Singapore Index.

NParks is planning to launch a series of programmes to raise Singapore's profile internationally, to gain support for the adoption of the Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity at the Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2010.

The Singapore Index has to be endorsed before other cities can adopt it.


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