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The Ecological Transformation of Singapore, 1819-1990

Richard T. Corlett
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Jul., 1992), pp. 411-420
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2845569
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2845569
Page Count: 10
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The Ecological Transformation of Singapore, 1819-1990
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Abstract

In 1819 the island of Singapore was almost entirely covered in rain forest, with a flora similar to the adjacent Malay Peninsula but a relatively depauperate vertebrate fauna. The cultivation of cash crops resulted in rapid deforestation which was largely completed by the end of the nineteenth century. The cultivated area reached a maximum in 1935 and declined thereafter. Today, more than half the island is urbanized and less than 100 ha of primary rain forest survives. A further 1600 ha is covered in tall secondary forest. Floristic extinctions are impossible to quantify reliably but at least 100 bird species, twenty freshwater fish species and several species of mammal have been lost. Man-made, open habitats are dominated by exotics but few have penetrated the forest. The naturalized biota includes at least 138 vascular plant species, eighteen bird species, five mammal species, twenty fish species, several species of reptiles and amphibia, and an unknown number of invertebrates. Over much of inland Singapore there are probably none of the plant or animal species that occurred there 170 years ago. Despite this, in all the major taxonomic groups for which I have information the majority of known native species can still be found in Singapore today.

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