Singapore's Largest Artificial Reef Project to be piloted at Sisters' Islands Marine Park to Enhance Marine Biodiversity


JTC, NParks and local marine research and interest group communities to collaborate on project to create the country’s largest artificial reef habitat

JTC and the National Parks Board (NParks), in partnership with local marine research and interest group communities, will be creating an artificial reef habitat at the 40-hectare Sisters’ Islands Marine Park in Singapore. This will be the country’s largest artificial reef project to date, and will see artificial reef structures pre-fabricated off-site and sunk in the waters off Small Sister’s Island, within the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. The project is expected to contribute some 500m2 of additional reef area to the Marine Park, supporting existing habitat enhancement and reef restoration efforts to conserve marine biodiversity.

Artificial Reef Structures to contribute to Singapore’s Marine Biodiversity

Unveiled by JTC and NParks, each artificial reef structure is conceptualised to minimise impact to the existing marine environment, utilising materials that promote attachment and growth of corals, and recruitment of fish species. The structures would sit on the seabed without piling or major works that would otherwise disturb the underwater environment. The structures would also occupy the entire water column from sub-surface to the seafloor, hence providing numerous and unique habitat niches for a wide variety of marine life.

The proposed site for the project was chosen in consultation with relevant government agencies, academic experts and members of the Friends of the Marine Park community. The seafloor in the area identified for the project is mostly bare, with sandy substrate. The structures will form the base for reef slopes over the flat sandy seabed.

JTC’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ng Lang, said, “NParks has been doing good work in marine reef conservation for many years. JTC is very happy to contribute our engineering expertise to further their cause in this area. This June is JTC’s 50th anniversary, and as part of our celebrations this is one of the initiatives we are implementing to support Singapore’s Year of Climate Action 2018. By 2030, we look towards working with NParks to double the artificial reef areas created at Sisters’ Islands to 1000m2.”

Enhancing Singapore’s marine biodiversity

Coral reefs are one of Earth’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. Beyond marine biodiversity, healthy coral reefs benefit humans in various ways, including protecting shores against erosion and storms, sustaining marine fisheries, and serving as an important source of novel compounds from which new medicines are developed. More than 250 species of hard corals are found in Singapore’s waters, which accounts for 32% of hard coral species found worldwide.

Long-term conservation and management strategies for Singapore’s coastal and marine environment are outlined in the Marine Conservation Action Plan (MCAP) launched by NParks in 2015. A key pillar of the MCAP is the habitat restoration and enhancement programme, which is coordinated and implemented by NParks in collaboration with various academic and interest group partners through the Friends of the Marine Park community.

The artificial reef project will complement ongoing reef enhancement efforts and expand the habitat restoration and enhancement programme in both scope and scale. At the same time, the artificial reefs will provide opportunities for various research initiatives to be implemented and serve as test beds for new technologies to study coral reef resilience. This will contribute to expanding knowledge and understanding of Singapore’s marine habitats and the biodiversity they support.

Coral reef scientist, Professor Chou Loke Ming from the National University of Singapore, Tropical Marine Science Institute, shared, “Size for size, Singapore has one of the largest variety of marine species in the world. However, development and the fast changing climate remain constant threats to our marine ecosystem. It is therefore paramount that we explore ways to restore and sustain the habitats. I am happy to provide my knowledge and expertise to NParks and JTC, and am confident that our collective effort will positively impact our underwater species”.

“Grow-A-Reef Garden” initiative

In the second half of this year, JTC, NParks and the Garden City Fund (GCF) will also be launching the “Grow-a-Reef Garden” initiative. This collaboration with GCF, NParks’ registered charity and an Institution of Public Character, will be a new initiative to help enhance the habitats at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. Contributions to this initiative will be channelled towards the construction of the structures and programmes such as monitoring, research, education and public outreach activities.

NParks’ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kenneth Er, said, “This year has been designated the International Year of the Reef by the International Coral Reef Initiative. Hence, this project is timely as it will help our efforts in promoting resilience of our coral reef ecosystems. It will also facilitate research initiatives that will go a long way in supporting conservation efforts in other marine areas of Singapore. Our marine biodiversity is our common natural heritage and we are glad to see partners coming on board to conserve it. We hope more from the community will step forward and contribute either by participating in various programmes or through the “Grow-A-Reef Garden” initiative.”

Biodiversity Week and Festival of Biodiversity

The launch of the artificial reef project kicks off Biodiversity Week. Organised by NParks and the community, it will be celebrated from 18 May to 3 June – with various nature-related activities across nature areas, parks and gardens.

During this Week, NParks will also be commemorating the International Day of Biological Diversity (IDB) with activities like Nationwide BioBlitz, Butterfly Watch, habitat enhancement and guided nature walks happening across nature areas, parks and gardens. Biodiversity Week will culminate in the annual Festival of Biodiversity, which NParks organises in collaboration with the Biodiversity Roundtable, on 2 and 3 June at the open field between Tampines MRT station and Tampines Mall.