18 June 2015

Seagrasses taking over sandy artificial shores!

The artificial sandy shores of East Coast Park and nearby Tanah Merah are being colonised by lush seagrasses!
This morning we discovered possibly the largest patch of Noodle seagrass on the mainland, as well as many kinds of seagrasses. The sandy shores were also alive with rare snails.

Led by Loh Kok Sheng, I visited for the first time, a sandy artificial shore at Tanah Merah. While Kok Sheng and some of the team explored the reef that settled on artificial seawalls nearby, the rest of the team were wowed by the lush seagrasses that settled here. Mostly Spoon seagrasses with large leaf blades, and Needle seagrass with broad and skinny leaf blades. There was a lot of Crunchy pom pom seaweed among the seagrasses.
How nice to see lots of Noodle seagrass! They were lush and seemed to be in large patches that cover possibly 20m or more. It was hard to tell in the dark. This is probably the largest patch of this rare seagrass on mainland Singapore.
We even saw one small Tape seagrass, that has yet to form a circular patch.
There were also some Sickle seagrass. I saw one broken leaf blade of Serrated ribbon seagrass but couldn't find any growing patches.
Among the Crunchy pom pom red seaweed were many tiny Dubious nerite snailsBazillion snails and Tiny red sea cucumbers. Pei Yan found a live Baler snail here too.
I decided to check another sandy shore at nearby East Coast Park. Along the way, I looked out for rare mangrove and coastal plants. I didn't see any but did see several nice tall Penaga laut that look like they naturally settled on the shore. This tree is listed as 'Critically Endangered'.
When I arrived at the other sandy artificial shore, I found it too was starting to be colonised by seagrasses! I didn't see any seagrasses here on my last visit to this shore in Jan 2013. Mostly Spoon seagrasses with large leaf blades, skinny and broad Needle seagrass,
I also came across a small patch of Sickle seagrass too!
With the presence of seagrasses, a wider variety of animals can find live on these shores. There were several small Thorny sea cucumbers, and a few large White sea urchins. But I didn't find any sea stars.
There were many small Moon crabs and lots of tiny to small Flower crabs.
There were still broad sand bars on this shore. And it was studded with tiny to small Cake sand dollars. So I wasn't surprised to see their predators. There were several small Grey bonnet snails.
And some small Fig snails too. These snails eat sand dollars and other sand-dwelling creatures. They are rather rare in Singapore because we have lost our flat sandy shores to reclamation. It's nice to see these animals returning to our artificial shores.
There were many small Weasel olive snails and small Ball moon snails. I saw large sand collars. But I couldn't find any living Button snails that used to be abundant on this shore.
Many animals live buried in the sand and few show signs above the sand. I saw some Smooth sea cucumbers, and several Acorn worms.
There are some small to medium-sized Haddon's carpet anemones in the seagrass meadows. The sand nearby suggests that someone dug up something.
There wasn't a lot of litter on the shore, but this large traffic cone is doing some damage to the seagrasses.
It's amazing to see how corals and seagrasses can take over our artificial shores! I'm still quite confident that if we build our reclamation projects to encourage nature, we can have reefs and mangroves and seagrasses colonising our shores!

Here's more about my wacky idea for aSingapore Great Barrier Reef. Which was to consider planning the East Coast reclamation to allow and encourage natural regeneration. Extensive reclamation at East Coast Park is among the massive reclamation plans outlined in the Land Use Plan following the Population White Paper.

Allow reefs to settle on the outside of the seawall. Encourage mangroves and seagrasses to grow on the inside of the seawall and shallow lagoons. Naturalise canals leading to the sea for a continuum of freshwater wetlands to mangroves. Imagine what's possible! Kilometres of reefs and natural marine ecosystems at our doorstep. Singapore's 'Great Barrier Reef' on the mainland, for all in the City to enjoy.

Tomorrow, we visit Tuas, the last natural western reef of Singapore.

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