04 December 2010

Blooming seagrasses on oil-slicked Tanah Merah shore

I'm back to check up on the oil-slicked Tanah Merah shore on a not-so-low tide today.
Wow, the patch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) is blooming! It's full of pretty female flowers on long stalks. It looks positively bridal. From the state of the flower petals, they seem to have just bloomed today! Too bad for the sheen of oil on the water surrounding it.

Some distance away, I saw another patch of Tape seagrass with male flowers!
One of the male bracts was hardly opened, while two were already opened with the tiny while male flowers sitting in the cup-shaped bract. When the tide comes in, the tiny white male flowers will float on the water surface and hopefully meet a nice female flower.
The shore above one of the patches of Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) is sandy without any sign of crude. But the shore seems higher. Perhaps the crude has been covered by a layer of sand? Washed down by the recent rainy weather?
Nevertheless, sheen still covers much of the water in the lagoon, and gathers around the seagrasses.
Surprisingly, the Ribbon seagrasses seem mostly alright and the patch seems to be much bigger compared to when I last visited.
In this now quite lush patch of Ribbon seagrass I saw three small Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) . But I didn't see any anemone shrimps in them. I also couldn't find the patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that grows here, possibly because the water was too high. And I didn't see any Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) either.
There were quite a lot of little fishes but they were very skittish and hard to shoot. There was a small filefish (Family Monacanthidae), many small Kite butterflyfishes (Parachaetodon ocellatus) an unusual sight, many Yellow-banded damselfishes (Dischistodus fasciatus), and other little fishes that I have yet to identify. As usual, there were also very many Ornate gobies (Istigobius ornatus). Today, the lagoon seems to be teeming with schools of tiny little fishes.
And a fish I don't really enjoy seeing. Mr Stonefish ! This Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida) is so well camouflaged the only sign of life are its glaring eyes. But sadly, though I looked hard, I couldn't find the seahorse I saw on my previous trip here.
There were quite a few Thumbs up sea squirts (Polycarpa sp.) although many were very well coated with fuzzy stuff. Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata) remain quite common on the seawalls.
The corals I saw seemed mostly alright, although many had small bleaching portions, or were producing scummy mucus. As usual, most of the corals were Favid corals (Family Faviidae) and Pore corals (Porites sp.).
At first I thought this was a hard coral. It turned out to be a large patch of Button zoanthids or colonial anemones (Zoanthus sp.). There were also a few other smaller patches of zoanthids.
Wow, a nice big Frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.)! I don't recall seeing one since the oil spill. Nearby, a small clump of zoanthids.
There were also many living fan worms (Family Sabellidae), about the usual number we might see before the oil spill. They all seemed normal.
The shore is still teeming with Bazillion snails (Batillaria zonalis) and there are still large numbers of Dubious nerites (Clithon oualaniensis).
I saw several different kinds of Nerite snails (Family Neritidae).
Some other snails encountered included: A Spotted top shell snail (Trochus maculatus), Firebrand murex (Chicoreus torrefactus), Black-lipped conch (Strombus urceus) and a sand collar, the egg mass of a Moon snail (Family Naticidae).
I saw this living oyster stuck to a rock. It has tiny eyes! Could it be a Thorny oyster (Spondylus sp.)?
I saw three Common sea stars (Archaster typicus), they were busy moving about despite the sheen on the water.
There were a few large squid or cuttlefish zooming about among the rocks. One left ink in the water as it escaped!
There were many small swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) of all kinds scrambling around the rocks, as well as Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) on the sandy bottom. On the dry rocks, there were many small small Purple climber crabs (Metopograpsus sp.). I looked but couldn't find the Saron shrimps (Family Hippolytidae) I saw the last time I was here.
It's the migratory season for shorebirds and a few were out on the shore. I'm not really good with birds but I think the one on the left is a sandpiper and the one on the right is a Pacific Golden plover.
The shorebirds have obviously been foraging on the shore, despite the sheen of oil on the water.
The most abundant seaweed on the shore today were Mermaid's fan (Padina sp.), with a few clumps of short strands of Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.). There were also tiny patches of other kinds of seaweeds.
Some parts of the sandy shore had lots of little balls of sand and some bigger balls of sand. Signs of burrowing crabs! I also saw two piles of poo of living Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta).
As I left, in the distance I saw a group of people just starting to step onto the shore. It looks like they have nets and containers to gather stuff from the shore.
There are still stretches of the shore with a grey zone of crude, but the extent of crude seems less than on my previous trip.
Although I didn't see any patches of slimy growths on the ground, there were many patches with lots of air bubbles, on the ground, on the rocks and even the seagrasses had lots of bubbles on them.
Scum still forms on many parts of the lagoon.
What a relief that I had a mostly rain-free trip. There was a bit of a drizzle but mostly calm. All too soon, the tide turned and flooded the lagoon.
Well, the shores seem to be still alive although I don't sense a huge recovery. Perhaps with time. Hopefully.

More about the oil spill on this blog and on the Oil spill facebook page.

1 comment:

  1. Good work, keep up the reports, very interesting.



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