01 June 2014

Terumbu Pempang Laut check up

Are the corals bleaching on one of our largest submerged reefs? We head out in ominous weather to find out.
We find some signs of bleaching but nothing alarming yet. Also a small Giant clam and other fascinating marine lfie.

We dodged the rain bullet as the lightning-filled clouds headed away from us towards the mainland. Hurray! This submerged reef makes for an easy landing because it has a sand bar.
Terumbu Pempang Laut is one of our largest submerged reefs and located near industrial islands such as Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
The reef is mostly rocky, dotted here and there with very large colonies of mostly Favid corals.
Today, we are also on the look out for bleaching corals. On the left is a normal coral colony, usually a boring brown. When corals are stressed, for example, by warmer than normal waters, they lose their symbiotic algae and the coral polyps become transparent, revealing the white underlying coral skeleton. So they appear bleached. Without their partner algae to provide food from sunlight, the coral animal becomes weak. If water temperatures return to normal, the coral animals can reabsorb symbiotic algae (which are abundant in the water) and regain their colour and health. But if they are bleached for a long time, they may succumb and die.
Some of the corals were also producing slime. Another sign of stress.
Only a few of the Favid corals were bleaching. Most of them were small colonies found on the higher shores.
Most of the Favid corals were normal, or only with a small patch of yellow or white.
I saw one Flowery disk coral that was normal, and another that was bleaching.
Most of the Cauliflower corals I saw were pale or starting to bleach. This kind of coral was the first to bleach during the 2010 mass coral bleaching event.
I saw one large Acropora coral that was ok, and one small one that seemed to be about to bleach.
I didn't come across a wide variety of other corals, mainly because I didn't walk a long distance and covered only a small area of reefs. I did see a Crinkled sandpaper coral colony that was not bleaching, an Anemone coral colony that seemed a bit pale and a Brain coral that was quite pale.
I was glad to see that this large patch of Montipora coral is still there. I first saw it in Apr 2011. It seemed to have grown bigger! It was about 10m x 10m.
Most of the Montipora corals are not bleaching. With only a handful of branches here and there that were white.
In parts of the 'field' of Branching montipora corals that are less dense, there were also lots of other marine life such as sponges and other kinds of corals.
There are also large leathery soft corals.
There were many kinds of leathery soft corals on the shore and most of them looked alright. Some had rather pale or yellowish edges or tips.
I saw two colonies of Asparagus flowery soft corals that were a healthy purple, and one colony of rather pale flowery soft coral but that might be its natural healthy state.
Some of the Sea mat zoanthids I saw were ok, others were very pale. I also saw small patches of bleaching Button zoanthids.
There were many kinds of sponges on the reef and all those I saw seemed normal.
There is swathe of Spoon seagrass on the Southern edge of the reef. Alas, no dugong feeding trails today. Unlike our trip on May 2012.
There is also a large meadow of Spoon seagrass in the middle of the Terumbu. I couldn't see any dugong feeding trails either.
But Pei Yan, the Drone Commander, flew the Drone today and hopefully we can have a clearer view of the meadows this way. Here's Pei Yan with the Drone. Check out the Drone's own facebook page for the latest updates!
There are also patches of Sickle seagrass sprinkled on the reef. Most of them were ok, although heavily covered in epiphytes and there were some that were bleaching. I saw some Tape seagrass that were cropped and others that were quite long.
There were many Haddon's carpet anemones in this seagrass meadows. Some of them were also producing slime. But none of them were bleaching. I didn't see anemone shrimps in any of the anemones.
I saw several different kinds of sea anemones and none of them were bleaching. These included Frilly sea anemones, Wiggly reef star anemones and a Fire anemone.
I also saw a lot more Common sea stars today than on my previous trips here.
I had a quick look under the stones here and glad to see lots of life there.
As we were leaving, we noticed this sampan stacked with large fish traps. There was one person in the water, seeming to be retrieving the traps laid in deeper water near the reef.
As the weather clears, the layer of brown every day 'haze' of pollution from Jurong Island becomes more obvious.
Terumbu Pemang Laut is one of the existing natural shores that may be impacted by the landuse plan by the Ministry of National Development released in Jan 2013 in response to the Populations White Paper with a 6.9 million population target. The dotted margined blue areas are "Possible Future Reclamation".
The other shores impacted by this plan include Pulau Hantu, Terumbu Pempang Darat, Terumbu Pempang Tengah and Pulau Jong and Terumbu Semakau.
The Find of the Day was this small Fluted giant clam, just as we were getting ready to leave the reef. The clam was about 15cm long. I don't know how we could have missed it after all the many trips here. We've recently also been seeing similarly sized clams at Pulau Hantu since May 2013. It's almost as if they were in hiding and only recently crept out. So mysterious!
My last trip to Terumbu Pempang Laut was in May 2012.

Today, Chay Hoon found a dead cone snail shell. Here, Russel demonstrates how NOT to hold a cone snail.
This is the better way to handle a cone snail. Although, we really shouldn't handle the cone snail which has a potentially deadly sting. Both Russel and Chay Hoon already did not heed this advice. Giving me a heart attack. Sigh.
Back at Marina at Keppel Bay, we have a look at the amazing corals and marine life that have settled on their pontoons.
None of the hard or soft corals that I saw at the Marina was bleaching. Unlike in 2010, when mass coral bleaching also affected the marine life growing at the Marina.
This trip is a big milestone for me because it's the first time I did an amphibious landing since I broke my foot about 8 months ago. It's still a struggle to do the field trips and I can't do as much as I used to. But it's good to know I can actually make a landing! One step at a time!
Thanks to Russel Low for the photo.
Today is the last of the low spring tides for May. Time for a rest until they resume in a little more than a week.

Photos and posts by others on this trip



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