Being a land-scarce country of 714.3 square kilometres and having a population density of 7,257 per square kilometer (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2012), every hectare of land in Singapore is extremely important to us. Over the years, widespread urbanisation has led to about 90.2% of our land area being developed (Tan, 2006), exhausting much of our natural heritage in the process. Due to the limited amount of land, our natural heritage is insufficient to provide us with much economical goods; we are thus very dependent on imported food and material from other countries (Tan et al., 2007). Even though these goods and services can be easily enjoyed from nearby countries, our natural heritage is endowed with unique characteristics which provide us with a plethora of services that are irreplaceable by other countries. Hence, I disagree with the classmate’s comment; I feel that it is worth spending money and effort to protect and maintain the remaining biodiversity that we have. The services that natural heritage can provide are the benefits that we people gain from them. These include provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. In this paper, I will be elaborating on how these services can be provided by our natural heritage. First of all, provisioning services supply the goods which include genetic resources and natural medicine. Our natural heritage consists of many species which include more than 2,000 native vascular plant species, about 57 mammalian species, 98 reptile species, 25 amphibian species, 355 bird species and many others (National Parks Board, 2009). This rich biodiversity that we possess should be conserved for long-term sustainability of all ecosystems. Some species, like the Singapore freshwater crab Johora singaporensis and aquatic aroid Cryptocoryne × timahensis (Kiew & Turner, 2003), are endemic to Singapore, as they can only be found in Singapore and no other countries (Tan et al., 2010). These endemic species are especially important as they have very restricted distribution and thus carry more risk of getting extinct. Furthermore, it is estimated that whenever an endemic plant species become extinct, it takes about 10 to 30 endemic animal species with it (Lovejoy & Lee, 2006), which could have a serious impact to our genetic resources. In addition, many useful biochemicals or compounds could be extracted from local species to be made into medicine or pharmaceuticals. For example, studies have shown that gorgonians in Singapore possess antifungal property, which could be useful in the pharmaceutical industry (Koh et al., 2002). This serves as a potential value, and further emphasizes the need to protect our natural heritage due to its rich genetic bank, as much more is waiting to be discovered.
Secondly, our natural heritage also plays an important role in regulation of ecosystem processes, which include water purification, air quality maintenance, climate regulation and erosion control; all of which cannot be directly provided by nearby countries. For water quality regulation, nature reserves that surround 4 of our reservoirs (MacRitchie Reservoir, Lower Peirce Reservoir, Upper Peirce Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir) serve as a water catchment areas which helps to ensure the high quality of water in our reservoirs (National Parks Board, 2012a). Flourishing ecosystems could also help in maintaining air quality. The trees help to ameliorate the greenhouse effect, by removing excess carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, which is also known as phytoremediation. Furthermore, trees could prevent soil erosion and reduce surface run-off (National Parks Board, N.D). These free services provided by our natural heritage could be enjoyed only if they are located in Singapore.
Next, our natural heritage can also provide us with non-material benefits such as cultural benefits. These services include aesthetic values, cultural heritage values, educational values, sense of...
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