17 June 2014

Checking Terumbu Bemban for coral bleaching

With trepidation, we head out to check for coral bleaching on a hot sunny day.
There is a rich reef edge at Terumbu Bemban and we were relieved to see that the corals there were still doing fine.


This is what the same spot looked like during the 2010 global mass coral bleaching.
During our trip in Jun 2010.
Today, we are glad to be able to share Terumbu Bemban with Tan Qiuyi from Channel NewsAsia (in blue). She did an awesome report about coral bleaching in Singapore recently (more below). Sadly, there were some Omelette leathery corals that were pale and yellowish.
Other leathery soft corals like these Smooth leathery soft corals were their normal pink colour. With their polyps retracted, they look uncomfortably like little baby hands. Eeks.
I also saw a large Pinwheel leathery soft coral that was still nice and brown. Although it was producing a layer of slime.
Today, from what I saw, I sense about 10% of the corals were showing signs of bleaching, but most with only bleaching patches or tips, and few colonies were completely bleached..
Here's a view of most of the corals not bleaching.
Another view of the reef edge without any obviously bleaching corals.
Underwater, things are still looking great. Although I can't take good photos of the reef edge as I'm still very wobbly.
The first coral species to bleach during the 2010 mass coral bleaching event were Cauliflower corals and Crinkled sandpaper coral. Today, I saw several colonies of these two species that were normal, except for one small Crinkled sandpaper coral.
Another species that bleached early were these Anchor corals. Today I saw several that were still alright.
I saw several Acropora corals and they seemed alright.
I saw many Branched montipora corals that were alright, and one small Pebble coral that was alright too.
I also saw some Carnation coral and Lettuce coral that had very pale to white edges but seemed to be  hanging on. 
Many of the Flowery disk corals I saw were very yellow and one was very pale to white.
But the other Disk corals seemed alright.
Of the plate-forming corals, I saw one Bracket mushroom coral that was bleaching, a Ringed plate coral that was rather yellow and Ridged plate coral that was not bleaching.
Most of the mushroom corals I saw were not totally bleached, although some were oddly pink or had white patches.
The few small Brain corals that I came across were alright.
I also saw a few Galaxy corals and they were still alright.
Most of the Anemone corals and Small goniopora corals I saw were alright, with pink or brown polyps. I only saw one that was very pale and almost bleaching.
Most of the Pore hard corals I saw were alright, although rather pale especially at the top.
Favid corals are the most abundant species on our reefs. So not surprisingly, the colonies I saw completely bleaching or with white patches or odd pink colours were Favid corals.
The Asparagus flowery soft corals that I saw were also alright: nice purplish without any yellowish bits.
I only saw one Giant carpet anemone and it wasn't bleaching. I also saw one Frilly sea anemone that seemed normal.
I saw a few small clumps of Tape seagrasses, mostly cropped short. I also saw small patches of Spoon seagrasses.
There are a variety of sponges on the shore and they were all doing fine.
Off the reef on the horizon, emissions are building up from the petrochemical plants at Pulau Bukom. There are also fishing net stakes on the shore, as well as two abandoned battered fish traps.
A closer look at the fish traps abandoned on the shore. Today, I didn't see anyone laying or removing fish traps near the reef (as we usually do on trips to this reef). But Kok Sheng found a fish net that was stuck in deeper water and thus impossible for us to remove at low tide. Sigh.
We were very fortunate to have Tan Qiuyi from Channel NewsAsia on our trip today! She recently produced this great report about coral bleaching in Singapore.
She also did this great report about the relocation of corals at Sultan Shoal, which features Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers.
Thanks as always to Alex of Summit Marine for bringing us to our favourite submerged reefs safely. Alex shared that his team has completed 1,000 charters, thus introducing ordinary Singaporeans to the seas that surrounds our little island.
It was a scorching hot day! And I'm sure the corals and marine life also suffer in the hot sun. Fortunately, most of Singapore's low spring tides happen well before sunrise.
So despite the severe sleep deprivation for us, I do prefer our predawn surveys! Both for the sake of ourselves and of the corals. Let's hope this submerged reef survives the expected mass coral bleaching in the hot days ahead.

Posts by others on this trip

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