The Mangrove Lab

Geomorphology : ecology : ecosystems services : remote sensing

Benjamin Thompson PhD student

Assessing the suitability of Payments for Ecosystem Services Projects in the coastal tropics

I hold a BSc in Geography from the University of Sheffield, and an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London. I have previously worked with the Zoological Society of London in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. More recently, I spent 15 months with the Island Conservation Society on Silhouette Island in the Seychelles. I started my PhD at NUS in August 2014. My research explores the development of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects in the coastal tropics, using a number of case studies from across Southeast Asia. The work aims to (i) quantify and value key ecosystem services provided by coastal ecosystems (ii) evaluate policy options for ecosystem service credit generation and trade (e.g. stacking), (iii) identify actors that affect or benefit from ecosystem services (i.e. potential credit buyers), and (iv) assess the practicality of establishing PES projects in the selected study sites using established feasibility criteria.My broader interests include fisheries management, other market-based conservation mechanisms such as REDD+, and corporate social responsibility.


Hossain, Thompson, Chowdhury, Mohsanin, Fahad, Koldewey & Islam. In press. Sawfish exploitation and status in Bangladesh. Aquatic Conservation. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2466

Thompson, Clubbe, Primavera, Curnick & Koldewey. 2014. Locally assessing the economic viability of blue carbon: A case study from Panay Island, the Philippines. Ecosystem Services 8: 128-140. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.03.004

Pierre Taillardat PhD student (co-supervised with Alan Ziegler)                                 taillardat.pierre(at)

Surface and Subsurface Biogeochemical Dynamics in a Highly Productive Mangrove of South East Asia

My research describes the key biogeochemical roles mangroves play as a carbon sink and nutrient source. This research is quantifying the dynamics of carbon (C) nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) in a tropical mangrove tidal creek located in South Vietnam (Can Gio UNESCO Biosphere Reserve). The study employs a multi-isotope approach (d13CPOC, d15NPON, d13CDIC, d13CDOC, d15NNO3 & 18ONO3) to identify the origins and movement of organic matter and dissolved elemental constituents in the mangrove surface and subsurface environment (including the water column, pore water, sediment). 24 hours time series sampling during the both dry and wet seasons, as well as during neap and spring tide cycles, will provide data to quantify element fluxes and understand complex elemental cycling.

Evaluating the fluxes of carbon and nutrients released into the marine environment is important for understanding the role of mangroves in linking the atmospheric, terrestrial and marine element cycles. Cementing the globally significant role that mangroves play in the carbon cycle will generate strong evidence for developing better coastal management plans and carbon investment projects. This research iis in collaboration with Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD, France/Vietnam) and Université du Québec à Montréal (GEOTOP - UQAM, Canada).

I graduated in Earth Sciences from Université François Rabelais, then moved to Canada for my MSc in Environmental Sciences at UQAM.  I first studied the impact of deforestation on the mercury cycle in Brazilian Amazonia. Then, my MSc research was about carbon fluxes in a mangrove forest at Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam.

Jared Moore Masters student                                                                                            jared.moore(at)

Assessing Resilience of Community Mangrove Management on Tanakeke Island, Indonesia

I earned a BA in International Studies from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2012 and have since worked at forestry  NGOs in Vietnam and Indonesia as a research assistant. My thesis research will assess mangrove management on a coral atoll in South Sulawesi using resilience theory to catalog the social, economic, and ecological inputs that compose the local social-ecological system (SES). In the 1990s, residents converted 70% (1,200 ha) of the island’s mangroves to aquaculture ponds which largely failed within a decade of use. A local NGO intervened in the early 2000s to improve livelihoods and conserve remaining forests; a major rehabilitation project (2010-2014) has restored mangroves to nearly 500 ha of abandoned aquaculture ponds. The community is now preparing for the complex process of securing community forest management rights from the state. However, concerns remain regarding community preparedness for sustainable management due to low capacity, exogenous pressures, and the recent resurgence of charcoal production as a livelihood. A resilience framework developed by the Resilience Alliance will be used to assess community progress towards sustainable, equitable mangrove management in a complex institutional landscape. 

Stijn Beernink Visiting Masters student                                                                                 stijn.beernink(at)

Applicability of hydrological classification for mangrove restoration using the diver-method as proposed by Van Loon et al. (2016)

I have a BSc in Soil, Water and Atmosphere and I am currently doing my MSc. Earth and Environment at the WUR in Wageningen. I am here in Singapore to do research for my thesis on hydrological classification of Mangrove systems. The data is collected at the mangroves of Pulau Ubin. My research aims to test, use and improve a method using tide information as proposed by Van Loon et al. (2016) for ecological mangrove restoration (EMR) projects. Therefore I collect field data of inundation characteristics of a natural mangrove forest and a disturbed shrimp pond. This data is subsequently used to test if the relation between hydrology and species distribution can be found using this method.

Seah Li Yi Undergraduate Honors student (2017-18)                                                     

Interactions between mangrove and seagrass communities in Singapore

I am interested in studying the material fluxes in mangrove and seagrass communities, and how they interact. My research will take place in Chek Jawa, Singapore, where mangrove forests and seagrass meadows exist adjacent to each other. It is hoped that the rates of import/export of materials - and the corresponding Carbon and nutrients within the materials - can be quantified through this study. 

Previous students - Hall of Fame

Teo Rui Xiang Undergraduate Honors student (2016-17)                                                     

Mangroves Land Cover Changes along north coast of North Sumatra from 1990-2016

This study seeks to inform the status of mangroves along the north coast of North Sumatra using LANDSAT imagery from 1990 to 2016. Results show that North Sumatra  lost approximately 11,109 ha of mangrove between 1990 and 2016, with most converted to oil palm plantations. This threat is significant as it is relatively new when compared to the global threat of aquaculture. Furthermore, it brings along possible implications of land grabs and environment degradation as observed with oil palm and terrestrial forests or peatlands. Results also showed that it might not be economical and beneficial for the local communities with the conversion of mangroves to oil palm plantations. A more comforting finding is the sign of regeneration and recovery of mangroves found along the coast and in abandoned aquaculture ponds.

Lee Wei Kit Masters student (2014-16)                                                                         weikit.lee(at)

Modelling of mangrove coastal protection value in Singapore

I have worked with mangroves for a number of years as a Research Assistant, and currently I am using the INVEST modelling toolkit to investigate the role and value of mangroves in protecting Singapore's coastline.


Friess, Phelps, Leong, Lee, Wee, Sivasothi, Oh & Webb. 2012. Mandai mangrove, Singapore: lessons for the conservation of Southeast Asia's mangroves. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology S25, 55-65

Friess & Lee. 2012. Sundarban mangroves. In: Biomes and Ecosystems: an Encyclopedia. Golsen Press.

Ong Wei Bin Undergraduate Honors student (2015-16)

Inundation thresholds of mangrove seedlings: a mesocosm experiment

I am working with Zhangxin to conduct a mesocosm experiment that explores the inundation thresholds of two different species - the pioneer species Avicennia alba and the back mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata. We are subjecting seedlings to different inundation periods and determining their medium-term survival rates. Both species have different adaptations to tidal inundation.

Zheng Zhangxin Undergraduate Honors student (2015-16)

Inundation thresholds of mangrove seedlings: a mesocosm experiment

I am working with Wei Bin to conduct a mesocosm experiment that explores the inundation thresholds of two different species - the pioneer species Avicennia alba and the back mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata. We are subjecting seedlings to different inundation periods and determining their medium-term survival rates. Both species have different adaptations to tidal inundation.

Lee Min Lin Undergraduate Honors student (2015-16)

Participatory mapping of cultural ecosystem services

I enjoy the outdoors, playing the guitar and chillin' with my pet rabbit, Haru. My honours thesis involves using participatory mapping to understand people's perception towards different parts of  Pulau Ubin in Singapore. I think that Pulau Ubin is a hidden gem that is yet to be explored! I hope that my research will help people to make informed decisions regarding future developments of Pulau Ubin.

Pim Willemsen Visiting Masters student (2015)

Scenario-based hydrodynamic modelling of fringing mangrove forests

I graduated in Civil Engineering at the University of Twente, Netherlands, with a minor in Geodata Processing and Spatial Information. I'm currently finishing my Masters in Water Engineering and Management at Twente. My Masters study at Mandai mangrove, Singapore gives insights in the hydro- and morphodynamics of mangrove forests under pressure of anthropogenic influences and the effect of these influences on mangrove development. I (I) collected field data of flow velocities with ADV’s (Acoustic Doppler Velocimeters), (II) calibrated and validated a numerical DELFT3D model simulating the hydro- and sediment dynamics of the field site, and (III) simulated, analysed and compared different development scenarios on hydro- and sediment dynamics.

Valerie Phang Masters student (co-supervised with Prof Chou Loke Ming, Biology, 2013-15)        

Carbon storage in coastal ecosystems of Singapore

I am interested in the environment and human interactions in tropical ecosystems. My research interest includes catchment and coastal ecosystem dynamics and management. Currently, I am working on carbon storage in mangrove and seagrass ecosystems (blue carbon) in Singapore, an important ecosystem service provided by coastal vegetated habitats. I am combining field research with remote sensing to provide a comprehensive understanding of blue carbon storage in Singapore.


Ziegler, A.D., Sidle, R.C., Phang, V.X.H., Wood, S.H., Tantasirin, C., 2014. Bedload transport in SE Asian streams—Uncertainties and implications for reservoir management. Geomorphology, 227, 31-48.

Rachel Oh Masters student (2013-15)                                                                                                     

Inundation tolerance and substrate preference of multiple mangrove species for restoration

I graduated from Biological Sciences at NUS, specializing in Environmental Sciences in May 2012. I've previously worked on factors affecting sedimentation in Mandai mangrove, Singapore, and the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on tree seedling distribution on Tutuila Island, American Samoa. This hints at my area of interest: the interface between ecology and the physical environment. Particularly, I like mucking around in mangroves, an environment I've been working in since 2010. My Masters thesis is investigating the inundation tolerance and substrate preference of multiple mangrove species, to refine restoration protocols for use in restoring abandoned shrimp ponds in SE Asia.


Friess, Phelps, Leong, Lee, Wee, Sivasothi, Oh & Webb. 2012. Mandai mangrove, Singapore: lessons for the conservation of Southeast Asia's mangroves. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology S25, 55-65

Ayesha Sadiq Visiting Masters student (2013)

Quantifying mangrove carbon stocks in Pasir Ris mangrove, Singapore

I am a student from King’s College, London, and studying aquatic resource management. I have always had a particular interest in mangrove environments and the many services they can provide to humans, I have also studied how humans can have an impact on mangroves for my undergraduate thesis. For my masters thesis I will be working on blue carbon storage within mangroves in Singapore

Leon Gaw Yan Feng Undergraduate Honors student (2014-15)                                                      

Threat analysis of mangroves in Southern Myanmar

I am an undergraduate in Geography minoring in GIS and Geosciences. My research interests are in the applications of remote sensing in environmental management. During my honours dissertation I developed a mangrove surveying protocol in the Tanintharyi region of Myanmar and used remote sensing analysis to model future loss of mangroves due to anticipated coastal development. The results acquired are now being used by our NGO partner to provide recommendations for coastal management policies in Myanmar. We are currently working up this research for publication. I love meddling with software that deals with data, geospatial or otherwise, and trying to make sense out of them.

Tan Xiao Yi Undergraduate Honours student (2014-15)

Remote sensing of coastline change in Singapore and Southern Peninsular Malaysia

My honours thesis involves utilizing historical photographs and maps, remotely-sensed imagery (e.g. landsat, Pleiades) and GIS to identify changes in mangrove cover in Singapore and Southern Johor in the last few decades. I amthen utilizing fragmentation indices to obtain data on the current levels of fragmentation, and make informed predictions on how future development in the region based on master plans may affect mangrove coverage. I think that mangroves are fascinating ecosystems (if a little too mucky sometimes), and going outdoors to visit field sites is always worth the trouble (if you are prepared)!

Leong Mun Kidd Undergraduate Honours student (2014-15)                                               

Recovery of mangroves in Singapore to successive oil spill events

Several oil spills occurred in the waters off South Singapore in early 2014. This undergraduate Honors project is working in collaboration with the National Parks Board to monitor several aspects of the mangrove ecosystem in order to assess impact and recovery. Fieldwork is being conducted on Pulau Semakau, and includes monitoring seedling mortality, leaf chlorosis, and sediment analysis.

Chewng Wenzhao Undergraduate Honors student (2013-14)

Community approaches to coastal management in the Gulf of Thailand

I studied coastal management policies in the Gulf of Thailand, focusing on community-based approaches and their impact on the protection of the shoreline at different scales. I am interested in how human-physical processes interact in the study of coastal management and investigating such processes in the broader context of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

Isaac Low Undergraduate Honors student (2012-13)

Terrestrial Laser Scanning of mangrove surface roughness for wave attenuation 

We used novel 3D remote sensing techniques (Terrestrial Laser Scanning) to characterize surface and vegetation roughness in Mandai mangrove with changing water height. This information is an important input into models of wave attenuation for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Akshay Deverakonda Undergraduate researcher (2014)

Drivers of mangrove deforestation in West Peninsular Malaysia

I am a third year undergraduate exchange student from William & Mary in the U.S. This semester, I will be researching the drivers of mangrove deforestation in the Lumut Estuary in Malaysia via analyzing LANDSAT and other remote sensing data. I became interested in mangroves after modeling them in a GIS class project back in the U.S., and I am now keen to learn more about their ecology and conservation. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the flora and fauna of Singapore.

Shermaine Wong and Jharyathri Tiagarajah Undergraduate researchers (2014)

The cultural value of Singapore's mangroves

We are quantifying how Singaporeans value their local mangrove ecosystems. We are looking at this as an alternative to traditional valuations of mangroves, that focus on provisioning or regulating services e.g. coastal defence, timber, fisheries production, carbon - all services that are less complex to assign an economic value to. We used a range of techniques to investigate this, including questionnaires, surveys, interviews, archival material and photo interpretation. We found that cultural perceptions of mangroves have changed through time, though mangroves in Singapore still provide an important cultural function. This research is currently being written up for publication.

Kuang Jin Yi Undergraduate researcher (2014)

Relationships between pneumatophores and sediment deposition: a flume study

I undertook a flume experiment in conjunction with the Department of Civil Engineering, showing how effective pneumatophores may be at trapping sediment under different water heights and velocities.