13 September 2011

Elevating the mangroves with Rick

I learnt a lot of new things about mangroves from Rick! He's doing an important study of  Mandai mangroves and I was thrilled to have a chance to 'help' out yesterday.
I also had little outings to some other mangrove spots during this period of no-low-spring-tides.

Rick Leong's intriguing study, with the Applied Plant Ecology Lab at NUS, involves getting readings of the ground elevation in Mandai mangroves. To do this, we haul some pretty impressive looking equipment into the mud. Rick shows me how we set up the first set of these super precise equipment.
The second set is put up out in the mud.
Then Rick takes a reading from the second set to the first set. All these careful preparations result in super accurate readings!
As we, or rather Rick, was setting up, I'm distracted by the awesome lush growths of rare Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii). This globally rare seagrass is seen in large areas of Kranji and Mandai and is possibly an important habitat for baby horseshoe crabs.
Interspersed among the seagrass, I noticed what looked like a bloom of red seaweed. I hope this is just a seasonal thing and that it won't affect the growth of the seagrass.
Before we got started, we spot a lonely little Limau lelang (Merope angulata). Although quite scrawny, it already had both flowers and the typical angular fruit. This Critically Endangered plant is quite common in Mandai!
Then it was time for me to head off, with a long stick topped with a prism. I feel like some mud wizard! The stick is quite handy for trudging in the soft soft mud. The idea is for me to set up the stick on areas with varying levels, hold the stick straight, and pointed at Rick.
Although Rick is very very very far away (see yellow arrow), he still manages to get a reading off the tiny prism on my wizard stick. I'm very impressed!
My mission is to do the western bank of Sungei Mandai Besar all the way to the mouth. It was a long trudge and I tried my best. But alas, towards the end I was thwarted by soft mud, strong currents and weak old back. Well, I hope Rick got some good readings before we had to pack and go home.
Rick shared more photos of his work on facebook.

This trip with Rick is one of my recent trips to mangroves. There's no low spring tides in September, so it's a good time to catch up on my favourite mangroves as these are still accessible at neap low tides. One of my favourites, are the beautiful mangroves at Kranji.
The Kacang-kacang (Aegicera corniculatum) was fruiting!
The globally rare and Critically Endangered Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) was producing lots of propagules. Alas, many of them had been chewed up by crabs! The tree seems fine.
I came across a nice Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata) with big fat fruits. This is another Critically Endangered mangrove tree. There are still many at Kranji and also at Mandai.
And for the first time, I saw the fruit of the Dungun (Heritiera littoralis)! This Endangered tree has pretty pink flowers but trees bear either male or female flowers. So perhaps this is why I have not, until now, seen the 'winged' fruit. This is probably a young fruit, which when ripe is said to turn brown or purplish.
On my way back, the tide was rushing in under the bridge.
The Striped-nose halfbeaks (Zenarchopterus buffonis) and long Needlefish (Family Belonidae) are swimming very hard and staying close to the banks of the stream, to avoid being washed away by the strong current.
Also curling up along the stream bank, a little Dog-faced watersnake (Cerberus rynchops)!
I also had a quick look at the Bakau mata buaya at Pasir Ris. Also some freshly dropped propagules, but not as many and some were also chewed up by crabs. The tree seems alright.
I'm looking forward to more neap tide trips to our mangroves, and to Rick's amazing project at Mandai. I hope I'll be more helpful the next time around!

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