15 January 2011

Dr John Yong shares on "What is a ‘healthy’ Mangrove Eco-system?"

A rapt audience gathered today to learn more about mangroves from Dr John Yong, whose passion for mangroves is highly infectious!
There sure is a lot more to mangroves than just trees!

Thanks to Sharon Chan of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, who invited Dr Yong to give us this talk. Sharon points out that mangroves are forests and what a great way to start off 2011 International Year of the Forests with a talk by Dr Yong! Forests can be marine too!

Dr Yong's talk covered much ground and although it was full of rather technical details, was quite easy even for ordinary people like me to understand and get excited about our mangroves!
Dr Yong explains in Real Life he does seriously sciency stuff, like this!
But his love for mangroves gives rise to all kinds of exciting ideas and applications. For example, mangroves and desalination!
Wow, my mind is boggled!
Dr Yong also shares some things I didn't know about mangroves. Like some of them grow on hard surfaces!
Dr Yong's vast and wide experience with mangroves around the world is truly awesome. And allows him to share with us some insights into the wide variety of mangroves and the conditions where they might grow.
At home, our Bakau Pasir (Rhizophora stylosa) is a prime example of a mangrove that does well in sand and is suited to changing shores where mud is less common.
Mangroves are tough, but they are affected by a wide range of factors. These are something we should have in the back of our minds when planning for management or development of mangroves.
These factors affect where and how many different kinds of mangroves may thrive in different locations. Dr Yong shares an example for Australia.
These different factors also affect the distribution of the different species of mangroves in a specific location. As an area, such as Singapore, is affected by urban development (e.g., the building of dams across our rivers to create freshwater reservoirs means less mud in our mangroves), climate change and other effects, so too will our mangroves change. We need to bear these in mind when choosing species for replanting or restoring habitats.
After measuring and understanding various factors such as tidal height, water flows and more, we can put together the ideal mangrove distribution.
Dr Yong is also very excited about the Bruguiera hainesii at Kranji which is globally threatened and raises the conservation value of the area!
He also shares some other important mangrove plants we should look out for. It's not just about the trees! But also wacky plants like this one that has a close association with ants!
And another weird and wacky mangrove plant.
Mistletoes found in mangroves are also important to look out for and document. Dr Yong has an entire guidesheet on these mistletoes.
Singapore and Dr Yong have made important contributions globally to the understanding and protection of mangroves. More about this paper in this post.
Another major contribution is the latest World Atlas of Mangroves. More about the Atlas in this post.
Dr Yong also shares on broad issues. The best news, Singapore has quite a good variety of mangroves at various locations. Thanks to current work by NParks and other mangrove workers.
Dr Yong shared stories of his experiences with innovative ways to grow mangroves. In some countries, mangroves are found in reefs, so they have ways to grow both reefs and mangroves!
Where Dr Yong could not afford to buy rocks, he found it was just as good, in fact better, to use mangroves in building bunds. These are not only natural and keep growing, but also absorb some of the pollutants in shrimp farms and other aquaculture uses for bunds.
Dr Yong also shared many inspiring insights into our efforts right here in Singapore to protect and rehabilitate mangroves. Such as the ongoing effort to save our last best mangroves at Pulau Tekong.
A very important aspect of mangrove restoration is having an effective programme for raising mangrove seedlings and replanting them. Which is not straight forward at all, and requires much experience and expertise.
Another issue that I learnt a lot about was albino mangroves! These refer to propagules or baby mangrove seedlings that are not green. These may be pink, white or yellow.
As you may know, in some mangroves, the seeds sprout on the mother tree, forming long seedlings. Just as with human mothers, when the mother tree is exposed to pollutants, the effect is more pronounced on the babies. Thus albino propagules indicate that something is wrong in the environment. Keeping an eye out for and reporting albino propagules give us early warning and allows us to act more quickly to protect the mangroves.
And this is Jiayi who is doing the study on albino propagules in our mangroves. She is such a trooper and turned up for Dr Yong's talk even with a broken leg!! (Just for info, she did NOT get hurt during a field trip)
Dr Yong also shared the many dedicated behind-the-scenes people who make it possible for us to learn about and protect our mangroves. From herbarium people in Singapore and abroad.
To a wide range of experts who work also in the field.
And the NParks team who take care of GIS data like Rachel.
The NParks team that have been documenting all our marvellous mangroves.
And of course the amazing team who have been raising mangrove seedlings of all kinds: Arthur and Jit Chern!
Of course, Dr Yong covered lots and lots more that I just couldn't squeeze into this post.

Before the talk, Arthur and Jit Chern hands out lots of the awesome guidesheet Dr Yong prepared for those of us who want to learn more about our mangroves. Here's more about his guidesheets, click on the images to get larger views of the guidesheet which you can then download.
Dr Yong leaves Singapore for a stint in the U.S. We will miss him very much though we know he is not more than an email away. And yes, Dr Yong, we promise to take good care of our mangroves!


  1. So cool! Very factual and interesting talk. Many thanks for sharing this in your blog post, Ria.

  2. Thanks so much for blogging on the talk. I'm so sad I missed it - seems packed with both technical and human tibits of mangrove-y stuff!



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