Fri 21 Apr 2017: 10.30am (*time change*) @ S1-03-02 CR2 – Zhang Yuchen on “Modelling of cropland expansion and its effects on biodiversity in Myanmar”

Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Qualifying Exam

“Modelling of cropland expansion and its effects on biodiversity”

By Zhang Yuchen
Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS
Friday 21 April 2017: 10.30am | S1-03-02 – Conference Room-II (S1, Level 3, mezzanine)(*note the time change*) 
Supervisor: Asst Prof Carrasco T, L Roman

Abstract – While the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, global crop demand is projected to increase by 100-110%. Demand for food is rising in tandem with a growing population, and accelerated by contaminant diet changes. Agricultural expansion is one of the common ways to meet this increasing food demand but it is also a major global driver of deforestation. With increasing world market integration, demand for new land is likely to be concentrated in tropical developing nations that have large areas of land suitable for agriculture. However, these are also areas in the early stages of forest transition and that have high conservation importance. In the face of these rising pressures, spatially explicit predictions of future demand for agricultural land could play a critical role in guiding conservation efforts to conserve key biodiversity areas.

Many forests have so far been spared due to inaccessibility, possibly due to lack of infrastructure and political and economic constraints on investment. For instance, recent political and economic liberalization in Myanmar is expected to remove some of these constraints and lead to increased investment into agriculture and thus increased risk of deforestation. In order to protect Myanmar’s rich biodiversity, we urgently need to predict areas at highest risk of deforestation with a view to designing a robust network of protected areas. Therefore, Myanmar could be used as a case study to model cropland expansion and its effects on biodiversity before modelling global cropland expansion and its environmental impacts.

I thus aim to 1) investigate how cropland in Myanmar would expand after political and economic reforms and its influence on the Key Biodiversity Areas; 2) project how global cropland would expand temporally and spatially and examine its biodiversity consequences; 3) map spatially-explicit global conservation economic cost based on forgone agricultural rent; 4) prioritize human-centered global conservation resource allocation facing increasing food demand and projected cropland expansion.

Thu 13 April 2017: 10am @ DBS CR1 (S3-05) – “Past, Present and Future of Southeast Asian Peatlands” by Lahiru Suranga Wijedasa

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Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Qualifying Exam

“Past, Present and Future of Southeast Asian Peatlands”

Lahiru Suranga Wijedasa
Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS
Thu 13 April 2017: 10am | DBS Conference Room (S3, Level 5)
Supervisor: Asst. Prof Ryan Chisholm

Abstract – Southeast Asian peatswamp forests are wetland ecosystems created and maintained by the interaction of vegetation and hydrology. Extreme habitat conditions such as high acidity, low nutrients and fluctuating water tables have resulted in special adaptations and high levels of endemism in peatswamp biodiversity. The conditions that led to adaptations (i.e. high acidity and low oxygen levels) have also resulted in peatswamps accumulating and storing vast quantities of carbon. While understanding peatswamp biodiversity and carbon storage is still in its early stages, vast areas of peatswamp forests have already been converted or have been designated for conversion to agriculture with the loss of biodiversity and release of vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere.

I aim to reduce uncertainties in our understanding of Southeast Asian peatswamp biodiversity distribution, management and conservation through the following three chapters: 1) quantify drivers of land use change and estimate resultant CO2 emissions, 2) quantify and estimate above ground biomass distribution, 3) prioritize peatswamp areas for conservation and 4) understand the drivers of forest structure in peatswamps.

Job: Two 3 months full-time paid internships for urban faunal surveys (Mar 2017)

Job: Full-time paid interns wanted to conduct wildlife (fauna) surveys and other tasks to determine environmental benefits of Dense & Green buildings in Singapore.

We are looking for two full-time paid interns to together conduct fauna surveys at green spaces on and around buildings in Singapore. The position will also require assisting in other aspects of the environmental benefits package under the Dense & Green Building Typologies project at the Singapore ETH centre in CREATE at University Town NUS (see details below).

Project description:
The Dense & Green Building Typology research team at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) investigates new building typologies with public and green spaces in high-density urban environment in terms of their environmental, social, architectural/urban and economic benefits. The findings will be integrated and translated into strategies and guidelines for architectural design and urban planning. The project is jointly led by ETH Zürich and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The duration of the project is 3 years. More information about the project can be found under

Please see the Job Description PDF for the complete details.

Singaporeans may be willing to pay $643.5 million/year for haze mitigation – 0.97% of annual income: Lin, Wijedasa & Chisholm (2017)

Lin Y., L.S. Wijedasa & R.A. Chisholm, 2017. Singapore’s willingness to pay for mitigation of transboundary forest-fire haze from Indonesia. Environmental Research Letters [free online version].

“Southeast Asian haze pollution caused by forest and peatland fires in Indonesia has caused adverse health effects, impacted regional economies and let to tensions between ASEAN nations. One of the solutions proposed is payments for ecosystem services. This could take the form of richer nations aiding better land management and restoration by making regular payments.

In this study, we assessed the willingness of Singaporeans to pay for haze mitigation in Indonesia. We surveyed a diverse set of individuals from different income groups, genders and locations throughout the country to quantify the willingness to pay (WTP) for haze mitigation.

Our estimate of mean individual WTP was 0.97% of annual income (n=390). This amounted to a total WTP estimate of US$643.5 million per year (95% CI [US$527.7 million, US$765.0 million]). This estimate is comparable in magnitude to previously estimated impacts of Indonesia’s fires and also to the estimated costs of peatland protection and restoration. We recommend that our results be incorporated into future cost–benefit analyses of the fires and mitigation strategies.”

Euphlyctis karaavali, a new species of frog from Karnataka, which calls like the white- throated kingfisher

Grad student K S Seshadri is working on threatened amphibians in the Western Ghats for his PhD dissertation, focusing on the ecology and behaviour of bamboo nesting frogs. His research is supported by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Chicago Zoological Fund. He updates us about news of a discovery of another new species of frog from the area:

“I’m happy to share with you the news of a new species of frog that we discovered from the West Coast of India. We described it as Euphlyctis karaavali, named after the local name of the west coast in Kannada language.

We chanced upon this frog entirely by serendipity. The frog call is very similar to that of the white throated kingfisher, commonly found in India. Mr. C. R. Naik, a forester with the state forest department brought this frog to our attention during his surveys along the coastal plains. We got him on board and wrote this paper along with him. This discovery is significant considering a forest department official with no formal training in research made the discovery and is an author of this contribution to science.

The frog is already threatened and we suggest that it be listed as Endangered under the IUCN redlist. The paper was published in Asian Herpetological Research, and is openly accessible.

Kingfisher-like call of Euphlyctis karaavali

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