22 August 2010

NParks update on oil spill at Chek Jawa

Yesterday, an update on the oil spill on Chek Jawa was given by Alan Tan of Ubin NParks to NParks volunteers.The last update on the situation was just after the oil spill.

Soon after the oil spill, booms were laid infront of Chek Jawa, indicated by the red line. Unfortunately, oil slipped in behind the boom when the tide turned on 28 May.
These were the two vessels stationed outside Chek Jawa during the oil spill period.
Through the efforts of workers and volunteers and staff, much of the oil was removed. This amounted to 120 cubic metres (not centimetres) oil and contaminated seaweed. Alan says there is no significant impact on marine life. The cleanup cost about $280-300,000.
After the oil spill, NParks and volunteers did a survey on 2 and 4 June and found that Chek Jawa was alright. Thereafter, a tender will be called for long term monitoring of Chek Jawa including Pulau Sekudu to keep track of any impact over the long term. (TeamSeagrass observed bleaching seagrasses on 19 Jun, a sign of oil spill impact. I have not been back to Chek Jawa's shores since then. More about the impact of oil spills on seagrasses.)
More about the oil spill on the wild shores of singapore blog and the oil spill facebook page.

Besides the oil spill, NParks also shared other updates. Hui Ping shared about efforts to deal with erosion in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve as part of the Sungei Buloh Master Plan. The plan is to build an offshore breakwater which will be replanted with mangroves. This will protect Pulau Buloh from erosion caused by waves from passing vessels in the Johor Strait. Erosion is a long-standing issue affecting many of our shores.
I was glad to be able to share with Hui Ping our encounter with mangrove trees settling naturally on the rock wall at Pulau Hantu. She was delighted to learn that many different mangrove trees can grow on an artificial sea wall.

Another effort will be to deal with the serious erosion near the Main Bridge which is threatens the mangrove trees there.
The plan is to put mud in biodegradable bags to prop up the mangrove trees, then reinforce the area to with geofabric and rocks to stabilise the bank.
I had a look at the area, and it is currently reinforced with bakau poles. It's good to know that soon this problem will be dealt with.
There were also briefings on the plans for the Eco-link across the BKE to reconnect Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with the Central Nature Reserve, plans to develop a new park at Chestnut as a buffer for the Central Nature Reserve and other interesting developments. There was also good discussion on the issues among the volunteers and NParks staff.

I think these regular sessions with the volunteers are a fabulous idea! They provide opportunities for closer interaction and understanding so that we can all work better together for the wild places that we love.

A pot-luck teabreak was arranged for this gathering. Resulting in a huge array of delicious food to try! It was also a good opportunity for everyone to catch up with one another.
After the briefings and enjoying the pot-luck, a few of us decide to try to find all the trees along the boardwalk in Keith Hillier's wonderful list provided to Sungei Buloh guides. We struggled a bit with the more terrestrial trees and plants.
We had a much easier time identifying the trees in on the mangrove boardwalk.
The mangroves around the boardwalk look particularly lush today. Perhaps it's due to the recent wet weather?
As usual, I'm more on the look out for the rarer mangrove plants. The Critically Endangered Kempudang baran (Cassine viburnfolia) is fruiting!
The Critically Endangered Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) planted near the boardwalk is growing well! This tree is very special because is rare globally. And Singapore has two of these trees growing wild. One of them is at Pulau Ubin.
Another special plant is the Endangered Dungun air (Brownlowia tersa). It's nice to see some of these growing near the boardwalk.
The boardwalk and bins there are gaily decorated with paintings. I am particularly captivated by this painting of what seems to be a mud lobster (Thalassina sp.)! I guess mud lobster mounds do look like an alien landscape and the mud lobster a strange other-worldly kind of creature.
Of course we see all kinds of interesting animals. Chay Hoon spots a pair of playful squirrels! We also saw all kinds of birds, mudskippers and crabs.
This Pythia snail (Pythia sp.) is only found in mangroves, feeding on algae growing on tree trunks and leaves. It breathes air, instead of using gills like other marine snails.
The fish tanks at the Visitor Centre often have interesting specimens found in the waters at Sungei Buloh. Today, there was a remora (Family Echeneidae) in the tank! This fish has an oval structure on its underside which acts like a suction cup. Thus the fish can attach to larger fishes and other marine animals, getting a free ride and feeding on the host's leftovers. The remora doesn't hurt the host or suck its blood or anything like that.
Although we didn't see the otters, the large Estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus) was happily sunning itself among the mangrove tree roots near the Main Bridge.
At the pond near the Visitor Centre, I notice platforms have been put up.
Besides lazy Malayan water monitors (Varanus salvator), turtles are also resting on the platforms.
"Is there space for me?"
Apparently not.
After a bit of tongue showing, the late comer swims away.

More about Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

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