07 March 2009

Mangroves in the city

Did you know there's a nearly 1km long strip of mangroves? Just minutes from our Central Business District?Patricia and I checked it out today in the mizzle (miserable drizzle).

Berlayar Creek is a narrow tidal stream next to Labrador and Keppel Club.It's actually quite long! And thick with mangrove trees!And as we found out, very soft mud too!The sides of this narrow squishy stream is crowded with mangrove trees and plants.There were lots and LOTS of Sonneratia, probably all S. alba. Some were blooming and fruiting.Mangrove trees have special roots. They have horizontal roots to stabilise themselves in the soft mud. From these horizontal cable root grow vertical pneumatophores. Like snorkels, these pneumatophores help the tree take in air from above the mud. The soft mud is usually oxygen-poor. The pneumatophores of the Sonneratia tree is conical and pointy, which makes walking in the soft mud a challenge since we don't want to stomp on them.

There were several of these trees with long skinny pneumatophores.
That look suspiciously like Avicennia marina.
But the leaves although rather oval (instead of long and pointy) were quite white underneath.And here's a closer look at the flowers and fruits, which look more typical A. alba. And the stems are not squarish. They are probably A. alba growing in the shade (hence the shape of the leaves not typically skinny pointy). Although those pointy pneumatophores are rather perplexing.There were a few clumps of Nipah palms (Nypa fruticans).And a few shrubs/trees that looked like some sort of Lumnitzera.And just as we were going back, a small short Ceriops, possibly Ceriops zippeliana?

There were also some Rhizophora apiculata, Bruguiera cylindrica, Avicennia officinalis and Avicennia rumphiana. Apparently there is a very nice Rhizophora stylosa near the end of the Creek, but we didn't get that far.

As well as these plants above the high water mark. I have no idea what these are.
A pong-pong tree (Cerbera sp.)? Wouldn't it be nice if it was Cerbera manghas?Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia)? Probably the rain made my brain go soggy. Hopefully some kind botanist will correct me.

Of course there were animals too. Besides the countless tiny Red berry snails (Sphaerassiminea miniata) and Lined nerites (Nerita articulata), there were also some special snails that can only be seen in mangroves.
Such as Belitong snails (Terebralia sulcata).

And these Belongkeng snails (Cassidula sp.)One type had a white edge around the lip of the shell with a plain shell.
Another had bands on the shell and a violet mouth. It looks like the ones I've been seeing on Pulau Semakau's mudlobster mound area. I didn't see these during my last trip to Berlayar in Jan because I didn't go that far into the mangroves. Speaking of mudlobsters, alas, we didn't see any mounds.

We saw lots of little mudskippers, tiny crabs; heard fish eagles, collared kingfishers, saw striated herons and other herons. But I generally didn't get a good look at the animals, too busy slipping in the mud, looking at trees whilst trying to keep the mizzling rain out of my eyes.

Unfortunately, the Creek is impacted by what seems to be systematic fishing. At mouth of the Creek there were new abandoned driftnets.Deep in the Creek, someone had set up a kind of cage by winding netting around several mangrove trees.Nearby, was even a little 'tented' area. Bottles of water was stashed here and there.A pair of booties were hanging from a tree, as well as t-shirts at various locations. And there was an abandoned boat motor and steering wheel. Fortunately, the trash load of styrofoam, plastics and usual debris is not very high deeper in the creek. Although there were a lot of styrofoam boxes, probably used by the fishing people.

In Dec 07, a team of volunteers from the Naked Hermit Crabs came together to remove a HUGE amount of abandoned drift nets at the mouth of the Creek.There was so much of driftnet, the removal had to be done twice, with an earlier effort in Nov 07.

It's a pity that a precious narrow mangrove, our last that is minutes from the city centre, has to put up with such abuse.


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