An encyclopedia of Singapore’s Biodiversity

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“Singapore Biodiversity – An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development” has just been published by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore. Written by a team of 65 contributors from academia, government and NGOs, it took three years to put the 552 page volume together.

The first section consists of a collection of essays that deals with an overview of our biodiversity that includes history, ecosystems, threats, formal and non-formal education, as well as laws that protect the various aspects of our nature. The second section lists more than 40,000 species of our flora and fauna.

BESG is recognised as one of the many nature groups that focus on biodiversity, in this case, avian behavioural ecology. Our contributions to non-formal biodiversity education is highlighted on pages 188-9.

The main value of this encyclopedia to birders lies in the A-Z list of flora and fauna as seen in the second section. Here are listed the many species of birds with information on their food and other interesting behavioural traits like movements and calls. Included here is a fascinating collection of insects like ants, flies, bees, dragonflies, stick insects, beetles, cicadas, cockroaches, bugs, butterflies, etc., most of which are accompanied by images. Birders who are interested in knowing more than just the names of the birds they sight can use this section to identify the insects that birds take. Many of these insects are not included in whatever few leaflets currently available that nature enthusiasts can make use of to identify insects they encounter. To a certain extent, the same can be said of other faunal groups like spiders, molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles.

Plant entries, although not as profuse in terms of images and numbers, can be useful to birders in a limited way. But then, a number of books are already available, especially on ornamentals and the more common non-forest species, that birders can refer to, if they are interested to know the food plants of the birds they encounter.

Being basically a plant person, I find this encyclopedia a useful one-stop reference in my usually near-futile attempts to put a name to a faunal food that birds are usually photographed with.

YC Wee
July 2011

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