30 December 2010

Homage to the hainesii

Mad Mangrove Maniacs have gathered this afternoon to pay homage to the gorgeous Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) at Kranji.
It was awesome to have Dr John Yong (left most) come to verify the identity of the tree. Dr Yong is the Mangrove Master who knows everything there is to know about mangroves. He wrote a paper about the Bruguiera species in Singapore (pdf) with lots of details and gorgeous photos. I have learnt so much from him about mangroves. I blame Dr Yong entirely for my getting bitten by the mangrove bug.

Also with us, Yang Shufen from NParks National Biodiversity Centre and Chua Jit Chern who is a magician at raising mangrove seedlings. Both of them are leading on the effort to protect our last best mangroves at Pulau Tekong.

And of course, the NParks Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve team who made the trip possible, includes Mohamad Azlin Bin Sani and Ang Hui Ping.
Dr Yong is explaining something with great animation as usual! We are all very excited!
Dr Yong shows us the bumps on the tree roots that are one of the characteristics of this tree. Which is why the Malay name has "mata buaya" which means 'crocodile eyes'.
I still couldn't get a good photo of the flowering tree. It's just too tall.
I took this blurry shot from a distance, of the beautiful tree crown full of flowers.
Jit Chern shared this photo of the calyx on the ground that gave away the tree. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to stumble over this tree. I'm terribly short-sighted and generally can't ID trees by looking up. Fortunately, Dr Yong has taught me how to look down on the ground for signs of trees. Thank you Dr Yong!
Hui Ping has found a complete propagule. Hurrah!
Jit Chern shared this lovely photo of Hui Ping and the propagule that she found.
And Jit Chern insisted that I include this photo he took of me (over much protest), having collected the calyx for me to hold too.Thanks Jit Chern!
And here's a photo with the newest member of the Mangrove Maniacs: Jiayi Lim. Thanks to Dr Yong for the photo.
All kinds of cool things get done to keep track of and manage our special trees. Hui Ping takes GPS readings, and so does Shufen. Jit Chern has his very long cutter to try to take a sample of the tree with fruits and flowers. Alas, the tree is much too tall! Dr Yong estimates it is about 15m tall and says it is now the tallest and thus oldest Bruguiera hainesii in Singapore! Awesome!
Red-and-white tape is used to mark the tree. Which is important so that we know where the tree is when we are in the field. From a distance, I can absolutely see Dr Yong's point that the tree has dark bark. Wow. I didn't notice that at all. I learn so much when I'm with Dr Yong.
Dr Yong says if there is one Bruguiera hainesii, there may be more nearby. We are even more excited! And look around to try to spot them. Shufen finds a pair and another is also found that Dr Yong says might be Bruguiera hainesii too! We scream and squeal like teenagers at a concert. It's Christmas with a twist, we tie the ribbon AFTER we find the gift of nature!
We shall have to go back again now and then. Once the trees flower we can be sure of what they are. How exciting!! Imagine if we have FOUR Bruguiera hainesii in this small patch of mangroves.

Bruguiera hainesii is globally Critically Endangered and considered the rarest mangrove tree in the world. It has a very limited distribution (see map below from the IUCN).
Besides in Singapore, it is also found in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, with an estimated 200 individuals left in the wild.

The IUCN further shares that several propagation studies have been carried out to restore population numbers, but unfortunately it is a slow and frequently unsuccessful process. Further research is needed to fully understand the status of the various populations of this species, and its rate of decline.

In IUCN's feature on Bruguiera hainesii, Jit Chern's photo of the flower was used. Bravo!

More about this rare tree in a recent study of mangroves of the world.

Dr Yong later shares on facebook that this Bruguiera hainesii is "indeed significant towards conserving mangrove biodiversity in Singapore and for the world as well as B. hainesii is a IUCN Red listed species. Measuring over 15 metres, this tree is also the largest (thankfully, very healthy and well-formed specimen) and oldest for Singapore. It occurs in the back mangrove area (Watson class 4 and 5) and this mangrove belt consists mainly of Lumnitzera racemosa, Bruguiera cylindrica and Avicennia sp. trees."

Dr Yong also shared these ecological notes about Bruguiera hainesii that he wrote for the Sungei Buloh 10th Anniversary Book
click on photo for a larger view

And this awesome photo of a Bruguiera hainesii taken in 1920 - it's huge!!!

On the way back, Dr Yong explains how it is important to maintain the water quality and water flow as Brugueira hainesii is sensitive to this. The water that floods the tree comes through the waterway under the bridge at Kranji Nature Trail.
Also on the trip were people from CPG who are managing the project to redevelop the area as part of the Sungei Buloh masterplan. Unfortunately, they weren't geared up to go into the mud, but we caught up with them at the Reserve and Dr Yong explains how important the Bruguiera hainesii is in raising the conservation value of this patch of mangroves. It seems the plan won't much affect the area where the tree is. Wonderful!
It was such a thrill revisit the tree with my favourite Mangrove People. I feel like I have struck the lottery! Super excited still.

I wonder what other marvels lurk in our mangroves? I am absolutely motivated to find out now!


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