26 November 2013

Reefs on Singapore's artificial seawalls!

A reef has settled naturally on the artificial seawalls at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. A wide variety of corals and marine life can be found here.
A rich reef growing naturally at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Jun 2013
More amazingly, these corals survived the massive oil spill of May 2010 and global coral bleaching in the same year that hit this stretch of shore! Can we encourage similar natural regeneration on other stretches of artificial seawalls and structures?! These details are part of City in a Reef: my feedback on the Draft Master Plan 2013.


Among the hard corals seen at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal were large colonies of delicate branching and plate-forming corals. As well as less common species such as Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.), Horn coral (Hydnophora sp.) and even rarer species such as Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi).
Corals regenerating naturally on artificial seawalls at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal
Some species seen include: Anchor coral (Family Euphyllidae), Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) and Galaxy corals (Galaxea sp.).
Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.), Boulder sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.), Lettuce corals (Pavona sp.), and Carnation corals (Pectinia sp.).
Circular mushroom corals (Fungia sp.) and Brain corals (Family Mussidae).
Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) of various kinds, many large colonies of Bracket mushroom coral (Podabacia sp.).
The structure of the wall may have helped to allow the corals to settle here naturally. While the top part of the wall is sealed and smooth (the gaps between the rocks filled up with cement), the lower part of the wall is made up of unsealed rocks. In fact, there is wide platform of open rocks which seems to be at the perfect level for the corals to grow. Wow, perhaps if we built our seawalls with coral colonisation in mind we can have lovely reefy seawalls in Singapore!
Corals regenerating naturally on artificial seawalls at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal
It was Loh Kok Sheng who first shared a closer look at the coral reefs at Tanah Merah. He surveys it every year to make sure it is well and blogs about his trips: 2011 and 2010 and 2009. He has found yet another stretch of reefy seawall further away from the terminal in 2013.
Photo by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.
MORE photos of corals growing naturally on Tanah Merah seawalls in Singapore in this wildsingapore flickr set.

Corals have also settled on the artificial pontoons at Marina Keppel Bay!  This stunning reefscape is growing on an artificial structure and can be easily seen even from above water!
Various sea fans
I took these photos at the request of Keppel Marina in their effort to document their marvellous marine life. Debby shares more about the approaches taken by the Marina that allow such marine life to settle here. More of my photos of Keppel Marina here. Debby of Hantu Bloggers, Abigayle of the Blue Water Volunteers and other volunteers also contributed photos to this effort which is showcased on the Keppel Marina website. Marine life we have seen here include hard corals, soft corals, anemones, sea fans, and reef fishes of all kinds.
Various sea fans
MORE photos of reeflife growing naturally on the pontoons of Marina Keppel Bay in this wildsingapore flickr set.

The pontoon at Seringat-Kiat is also alive! We were amazed by it on our trip in July 2011. Rene shared an entire series of photos of the marine life at this pontoon. Marine life also grows on the pontoons at Raffles Marina. I last saw them in 2009.
Colourful marine life also settle naturally on jetty legs everywhere. At Bedok Jetty, we saw a wonderful seafan garden on our trip in Jun 2013.
Colourful sea fans growing on artificial seawall
As well as the usual colourful reef life associated with such growths, such as this pretty Hypselodoris kanga nudibranch.
This brittle star swept up with the waves. Mei Lin shared that she often sees it on barrel sponges when she dives in our reefs. Marcus also saw something similar when we surveyed the reefs at Sentosa Serapong.
A blue feather star was also spotted. Among its arms was the brittle star (Ophiomaza cacaotica) that lives only in feather stars.
Where do these reef animals come from? Where are the natural reefs that produce the 'babies' that settled on our artificial structures? What can we do to encourage similar natural regeneration on other stretches of artificial seawalls and structures? These are indeed very interesting questions that hopefully can be explored in the future by people far more competent than I.

Why should we care about corals growing on our seawalls?

Corals and other natural ecosystems such as seagrasses and mangroves can help maintain good water quality. They  can be living 'barriers' that may help mitigate impacts of rising seas and climate change: such as flooding, saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies, and impacts of more severe weather. Natural and wild ecosystems that are self-generating and self-sustaining are relatively inexpensive to maintain and provide a wider spectrum of experiences compared to manicured gardens. They can be beautiful and provide recreational enjoyment. Easy access will allow schools bountiful opportunities for nature-related learning. I am sure there are many more advantages that I have not thought of!

These details are part of City in a Reef: my feedback on the Draft Master Plan 2013.

Related links

Surveys to check up on the corals that settled naturally on seawalls at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal
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