Urban Waterways

Urbanization has been the most rapid form of land use change associated with economic growth especially in developing countries. Existing urbanization and its rapid increase in developing world puts an enormous threat to the microbial ecosystems associated with rivers and streams in and around cities. Apart from natural bio-geochemical cycles,urban biogeochemistry is dominated by degradation of chemicals of anthropogenic origin. Pollutants in the form of pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industry chemicals, heavy metals and vehicular emissions, deposit into the catchment and find their way to streams through storm water. Given that water is being recognized as a scarce resource, especially from the standpoint of its growing demand in urban areas, studying the urban stream biogeochemistry and microbial ecology is emerging as a globally important research area.
Our lab studies the microbial ecology in the water column and sediments present in the waterways. The microbial communities differ between land use types, suggesting strong environmental influence.

Research theme: Fresh water microbial ecology
Importance :
No ecosystem can exist without bacteria. Even the extreme environments where possibility of life is minimum, diverse bacterial species survive and live together with archaea and perform important functions such as primary productivity and running geochemical cycles.
However, human activities continuously damage natural ecosystems. In order to reverse some of those damages, we need to restore the bacterial communities and their environment. Therefore,understanding their ecology and function is important so that current damages are repaired and further damage can be avoided.
Model :
We have adopted the Pandan catchment (Singapore) as a model to study the microbial processes and geochemistry in urban settings. It is characterized by a size of around 25 km2, land use patterns, including residential, vegetated (Bukit Timah area) and industrial areas of the west (Jurong area), minimal tidal influences in canal & stream network and minimal influences from random access by public.