Towards the understanding of ocypoid crab ecology in Singapore coastal environments

Project Number
RS 12/16 SL

Project Duration
January 2017 - July 2018

In-Progress (Extended)

Coastal marine ecosystems provide many important services to man such as nutrient cycling, food production, provisions of habitats/refugia, disturbance regulation, natural barriers to erosion, control of water quality, and nursery grounds to marine organisms. The global value of such services is estimated to be 10 times that of any terrestrial ecosystems. Unfortunately, while it is recognized that habitat loss is an important threat in the marine environment, most of the focus of science and conservation has been on terrestrial environments. Since Singapore’s founding in 1819, the original mangrove cover has steadily declined due to urbanization; dwindling to 6.6 km2 today, with a projected area of only 4% of the original cover remaining by 2030 (Hilton & Manning 1995, Yee et al. 2011). The other types of coastal habitats in Singapore such as sandy beaches and mud flats, are also not spared from urban development. In May 2016, the Singapore government has announced initiatives to restore our coastlines to prevent biodiversity loss, as well as to beautify and increase coastal recreational areas for her citizens (The Straits Times, 22 May 2016). If habitat loss and dwindling numbers of local species (worst case scenario, extinction) are problems that we face, how do we restore habitats such that native organisms can still thrive in the restored environment? Having mere landfills and erection of some barriers at the sea-front edge of the affected coasts might not be sufficiently conducive to promote resettlement and colonization of marine species. Relevant biological knowledge and information on the habitat requirements of the various local species are necessary for successful biodiversity conservation. A prominent group of macrofauna on our coastal shores is the ocypoid crabs (i.e., fiddler crabs, ghost crabs, soldier crabs and sand bubblers). Our previous studies on the feeding activities of local fiddler crabs indicated that they adopt many different strategies to adapt to the environment in which they live (see Lim, 2004; Lim et al., 2008; Lim, 2010; Lim & Kalpana, 2011). These strategies involve both behavioral and morphological adaptations.

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