, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 666–677 | Cite as

Historical and contemporary cultural ecosystem service values in the rapidly urbanizing city state of Singapore

  • Jharyathri Thiagarajah
  • Shermaine K. M. Wong
  • Daniel R. Richards
  • Daniel A. Friess


Cultural ecosystem services are a function of people and place, so may change as a location transitions from rural to urban. Singapore has undergone rapid urbanization after its independence in 1965, with a concomitant decline in natural habitat extent and accessibility. Using coastal mangrove forests as a case study habitat, changing cultural values were explored with a novel array of techniques, including qualitative archival analysis (photographs, oral histories), current sources (publically uploaded social media photographs), and surveys of (a) the general public and (b) visitors to publically accessible mangroves. Cultural value changed through time, with a significant transition from intrinsic, intrapersonal values (spiritual, cultural heritage) to instrumental, interpersonal values (recreation, education). Additionally, cultural value varied between different mangroves depending on their public accessibility, and the evolving degree of human interaction with the ecosystem as urban development occured. Cultural values change as development transitions, though mangroves still play an important cultural role in a heavily urbanized environment.


Coastal Ecosystem services Mangrove Recreation Singapore Urbanization 



This study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Govt. of Singapore (R-109-000-147-112). The permission of National Parks Board park staff to conduct visitor surveys on their sites is greatly appreciated. Photographs used in this study were provided by Ria Tan (WildSingapore), Sivasothi N. (National University of Singapore), Barbara J. Anello, the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, and the National Archives of Singapore. This research conforms to the ethics requirements of the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jharyathri Thiagarajah
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shermaine K. M. Wong
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel R. Richards
    • 1
  • Daniel A. Friess
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Environmental Studies ProgrammeNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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