22 April 2011

Coral overdose at Terumbu Bemban

A coral encrusted part of this submerged reef seems to be doing well! What a relief as there was lots of coral bleaching on Terumbu Bemban when we last visited in June 2010.
Other special sightings (by others in the team), possibly yet another Leathery sea anemone, Merten's anemone and more Fluted giant clams!

Here is Terumbu Bemban relative to Pulau Semakau. It looks rather small on Google Earth, but is quite large when we land. Although we had a big team, we hardly managed to cover the entire shore.
This is what the area looked like during the coral bleaching last year. Today, it looked a lot better!
The reefy edge plunges away into deep water. On the horizon is Beting Bemban Besar, which is indeed very large. On the left is another portion of Terumbu Bemban.
At the edges of this submerged reef, all kinds of corals crowd near one another.
Swimming camera had a quick peek underwater and it's full of colourful corals of all kinds!
Some of the highlights include these corals that I seldom see: Moon coral (Diploastrea heliopora) and Horned coral (Hydnophora sp.).
I'm not too sure what these corals are.
There were many colonies of Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.) and a few colonies of Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.). Some were a little pale, but others were colourful. I didn't come across any Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.), but perhaps I just missed seeing them.
A wide variety of mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae) had settled in this reefy part of Terumbu Bemban, including: Tongue mushroom coral (Herpolitha sp.), Mole mushroom coral (Polyphyllia sp.) Long mushroom coral, Circular mushroom coral, Smooth mushroom coral and Bracket mushroom coral.
I saw several colonies of small Goniopora corals (Goniopora sp.) and Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.). They seemed fine.
There were a few colonies of Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) and many of Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.). I also saw a few Montipora corals (Montipora sp.) on the higher shore.
As usual, there were lots of Favid corals (Family Faviidae) everywhere on the reef. Most seemed to be alright.
Also abundant are Pore corals (Porites sp.), with many large colonies. I only saw a few disk corals (Turbinaria sp.), they were not bleaching.
It was good to see a few healthy colonies of these corals that suffered particularly badly during the coral bleaching last year: Sandpaper corals (Psammocora sp.), Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) and a nice large colony of Euphyllid coral (Family Euphyllidae).
I saw one small colony of Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.) and many of Carnation corals (Pectinia sp.). They seemed alright although some carnation corals were a bit pale.
I did come across some hard corals that had white patches or seemed particularly white. The Brain corals (Family Mussidae) that I saw were also rather yellow.
Today, I didn't see many flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae).
I saw some colonies of the usual leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae). These were badly bleaching when I last visited this shore. While none were bleaching today, they were not abundant or large.
I also didn't come across many zoanthids, just a few clumps of Sea mat zoanthids (Palythoa tuberculosa) and small patches of Broad zoanthids (Playthoa mutuki) and some Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.).
We also saw all kinds of jellyfishes today. Besides the usual Ribbon jellyfishes (Chrysaora sp.) which were scarily abundant, we also saw little purple ones, and some transparent ones.
I didn't see too many anemones aside from this cluster of strange little unidentified anemones, and some Wriggly star anemones and Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.). But Russel saw something that might have been a Leathery sea anemone (Heteractis crispa) which we seldom see, and the others also saw other kinds of anemones.
There were lots of Phyllid nudibranchs today. I saw one Phyllidiela nigra and lots of Phyllidiela putolosa. Chay Hoon also spotted two Fluted giant clams (Tridacna squamosa) near one another. Hurray!
In one Cauliflower coral, I saw a pair of little Red coral crabs (Trapezia cymodocea) that live in this coral.
I saw a large Barrel sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria). It was about 20cm across!
There are lots of other different kinds of colourful sponges too.
There were more sightings, but here's some puzzling encounters: A large crab I saw appears to be a Mud crab (Scylla sp.). I've been seeing this crab too at the reefy part of Tanah Merah. Do some Mud crabs live in the reefs? Hmm...
Besides the usual variety of seaweeds on the shore, I saw this strange seaweed. I'm not sure what it is. This shore doesn't have much seagrass. There were sprinklings of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) and sparse tufts of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) here and there.
Alas, during the trip, we saw this small boat working the waters off the reefs at Terumbu Bemban and Beting Bemban Besar. They were dropping off very large fish traps, and one of them dived in to pull out fish traps. More photos of these men by Russel.
Sticks with a very well encrusted net have been set up near the reefy parts.
Hopefully, this beautiful reef will not be harmed by these human impacts.

It's a relief to see that most of the corals on Terumbu Bemban were no longer bleaching. Once a year, our corals reproduce with mass spawning, usually at night during the high spring tide at around this time. There were fears that coral bleaching last year might affect this year's mass spawning. Thus I was really glad to find out from friends like Jeff and Mei Lin that they had encountered mass spawning during their dive last night! Hurray! They are busy diving at night to keep up with the orgy. I'm sure we will read about this soon on their blogs.

On the way home, we had another quick look at the amazing marine life that have settled on the pontoons at Marina at Keppel Bay! We also saw a baby Batfish, an Eight-banded butterflyfish, little pufferfish, and all kinds of other colourful reef fishes.
Wow, our marine life is amazing! So long as we leave them alone and keep the water clean, they will settle down and flourish! More photos of the marine life here by Russel and James and Rene.

Tomorrow, we visit yet another submerged reef!

Other posts about this trip
  • Russel on facebook with leathery sea anemone, lots of corals, sting rays and scenic shots. And video clip of little damselfish.
  • Kok Sheng with possible Merten's anemone, lots of corals, sea fan, cushion stars, feather star, urchins and more!
  • James with great close ups of anemones, shrimps, corals and views of amazing marine life at Marina at Keppel Bay.
  • Andy with video clip of a false scorpionfish.
  • Rene on facebook with more leathery anemone, corals, fishes.

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