Thursday, November 06, 2008

The future of water quality monitoring in Singapore: bugs, macroinvertebrates and biotic indices

Bugs... If you think bugs are yucky, think again as Singapore will be incorporating bug sorting and counting as a tool in water quality monitoring in the future. Lots of developed countries are already doing it e.g. USA, UK, Australia. Even Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have gone ahead much further than us in this area. These countries have established biotic indices and protocols (to various extents) relevant to their environments.

And what are we doing?

We have employed a handful of expatriates researching on our very own local aquatic bugs. There is a group working on streams and canals while another group is working on our reservoirs.

As expected, lots of work has to be done in the identification and quatitation of local bugs before any useful index or protocol can be created. Of course, this also means that there is much potential in the study of aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects, worms, crustaceans, molluscs, zooplankton etc.).

Ultimately, our current physical, chemical and microbiological monitoring will be coupled to biological monitoring to provide a complete picture of our waters' health. Meanwhile, you can start to love bugs more or better still, learn about them and how they serve as useful environmental indicators.

Our beautiful bugs (L-R): Dragonfly nymph (O. Odonata, S.O. Anisoptera, F. Libelluidae), Non-biting midge larva (O. Diptera, F. Chironomidae), Mayfly nymph (O. Ephemeroptera, F. Caenidae)


Claudia said...

I've been working for the last 6 months as a volunteer with biologists in stream biomonitoring in Costa Rica....a climate very similar to that of Singapore. I was thinking of setting up a similar project in Singapore but the only obstacle was....the majority of macroinvertebrates are found in rapids...which I don't remember if there is any in Singapore.... for the monitoring to be credible, you'll need a representative population of the macroinvertebrates living in the water, isn't it?

KWOK CHEN KO said...

Hi Claudia,

You are right. There are no rapids in Singapore. The closest I can think of are small waterfalls (2m height max) in our natural areas.

So far, the bugs I found in streams by kicking the bed and sweeping with a D-frame net are few in numbers and diversity.

Actually, the use of bugs as a water monitoring tool is still new here. Lots of research has to be done to even identify the bugs we have here.

From what I know, other researchers working with leaf traps and customised substrates have more luck in finding bugs in our waters. This is partly because the traps are left in the water for a longer period of time.