29 December 2008

Kranji Quickly

A quick dash from work to the mudflats, I checked out the mangroves outside Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve today.Under a gloriously blue sky on a very windy evening, the mudflats of Singapore stretch out in front of glittering Johor Baru!

This strange finger of rocks sticks out of the shore and is the only part that is hard.
Swathes of mudflats bulge out, here and there, with Sungei Buloh way way in the blue distance. It is not well known that there are mangroves and mudflats outside Sungei Buloh.

Although nudibranchs are among our most favourite shore sightings, we don't get as excited about Onch slugs (Family Onchididae).Which is a pity, as the ground was crawling with these tiny slugs!There were pale ones as well as dark ones. OK, they are not pretty or colourful. But they are kind of cute in their own way.The barnacle-covered stones and the carpets of Nest mussels (Muscilita senhausii) is an all-you-can-eat buffet for Drills (Family Muricidae). These cone-shaped snails secrete an acid and together with their rasping 'tongue' can drill holes in hard shells. Hence their common name.Drills lay yellow egg capsules on rocks and stones. These turn pink when the eggs hatch. The only large animals I saw in numbers on the mudflats were Mangrove horseshoe crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)! Most were half buried in the sand. These animals are listed as 'Vulnerable' on our Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. They need mudflats like those at Kranji. Unfortunately, these harmless animals are often trapped and killed by abandoned driftnets. Dr Hsu of the Nature Society (Singapore) regularly conducts horseshoe crab rescue and research at this location.
There were few other big animals, except for this very large and very dead Mud crab (Scylla sp.).
I tried to head out to the edge, but chickened out as the mud got softer and softer. I decided to head out to Kranji Park next to the Kranji Reservoir sluice gate instead.On the way there, I encountered what must be one of the few remaining outdoor toilets on the mainland. It's probably not one that would be included in the latest book "Loo with a View".The shore at Kranji Park is just as wide. And there were several people out on the flats fishing or digging for clams. The Park itself was full of workers, enjoying an off day.While daddy fished, little daughter played in the sand, and curious workers wandered among the few mangrove trees at the shore of the Park.

The shores here were not as soft. But very much alive with a zillion worms!There were pink ones.And white or yellowish ones.These obviously made the mudlfat a popular snack bar for birds. There were also lots of Mangrove horseshoe crabs here.As well as many lovely delicate Mangrove anemones. This one had a dark body column with fine white stripes, so that it looks like it's wearing a pin-striped suit!There were lots of these anemones.And some looked slightly different. Hmm...

I waited until sunset, but no sea stars came out. Sigh.

The mangroves of Kranji as said to be among the last best stands on the mainland.Away in the distance next to Woodlands is a long stretch of mangrove forest.
Flats and mudflats! With lots of birds feeding on the shores and dogs having a splashing great time. There's so much yet to explore and just never enough low tides.

More about Kranji's mangroves
from Kranji mangrove system circa 1989 from the online version of "A Guide to Mangroves of Singapore", Peter K. L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors)

The Kranji River is an example of a former mangrove estuary dammed to become a freshwater reservoir. It is also the type locality of the "Kranji series" of soils, a characteristic of Singapore mangroves. The mudflats beyond the tree line are continuous with the Mandai and Buloh systems. The Kranji mudflats (off KR 1 and KR 2) are probably the most popular site presently for weekend fishermen and their families, who exploit the mudflats for molluscs, crabs and fish.
Kranji: "the oldest undisturbed fragment of mangrove forest on mainland Singapore"
from "Evolution of the Sungei Buloh-Kranji mangrove coast, Singapore" by Michael Bird, Stephen Chua, Keith K Fifield, Tiong S Teh, Joseph Lai
Applied Geography, Vol. 24, No. 3. (July 2004), pp. 181-198, on CiteULike
The mangroves from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to Kranji Dam represent the largest intact mangrove forest left on mainland Singapore.

Major changes in the distribution of mangroves in the area has occurred in 1946 to 2001, resulting from development-induced changes in the local hydrodynamic regime and clearance for aquaculture.

Mangroves covered 117.3 ha in the study area in 1946 and were actively advancing over the coastal mudflats until 1980. Despite the addition of 6.24 ha from mangrove colonization, the total area covered by mangroves was reduced by about 50% by 1980 due to clearance for aquaculture.

Following 1980, a reduction in sediment supply possibly due to the construction of the Kranji Dam, immediately east of the study area, led to the initiation of erosion along much of the coastline, with the mangrove fringe having retreated by up to 50 m in 2001.

Establishment of the wetland reserve in 1992 enabled the partial regeneration of mangroves in the area to 86.8 ha, 25% less than in 1946.

Three areas of undisturbed old growth mangroves more than 55 years in age have been identified and are considered to be of high conservation value.

Two of these areas are within the current boundaries of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, but are located along coastal areas that are undergoing severe erosion. The third area is located in the south of the study area, protected from coastal erosion, but outside the current nature reserve boundary and hence is susceptible to loss as a result of future development. This third area is possibly the oldest undisturbed fragment of mangrove forest on mainland Singapore.
More history about Kranji
from "Kranji Road" by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala written on 2003-10-16 on Infopedia by the National Library Board Singapore
Kranji Road gets its name from a local tree, the Kranji or Keranji tree (Dialium indicum), which was found in abundance all over Singapore in the first half of the 19th century.

The Kranji Industrial Estate was built over land that was reclaimed between 1965 to 1970, initially for the saw-milling industry. This reclamation project was the first ever recorded by the Land Office, though the credit for the earliest reclamation in Singapore is sometimes given to the filling of the swamps around the Singapore harbour during Raffles' times. The Sungei Kadut Industrial Estate was designated for heavy industries.
What is the future of Kranji mangroves?

A new master plan for the area was announced during Buloh's 15th Anniversary on 6 Dec 08. The plan is to link the current reserve to at least three other mangroves, reservoirs and marshes in the nearby Lim Chu Kang and Kranji areas.

The reserve will aso be divided into four zones. In those designated as medium to high activity, facilities such as floating boardwalks, outdoor classrooms and a children's play area will be built. Access to the other two zones will be kept minimal, possibly requiring the accompaniment of certified nature guides or limited only to researchers.

There are plans, too, to 'integrate the surrounding areas so that visitors will be able to enjoy the facilities right from the Kranji area to Sungei Buloh',

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