23 September 2011

Mandai mangrove meanders with Rick

How delightful to explore with fellow mangrove addicts! Two days ago, I was kindly included in a trip by Rick and Dan Friess as they did a recce for Rick's study of Mandai mangroves.
I had great fun finding interesting mangrove trees, and learning more about what goes into studying a mangrove.

Rick and Dan are from the Applied Plant Ecology Lab at NUS and besides studying the living trees, Rick is also planning to study the dead ones too. I learn that the distribution of dead ones will tell us something about what is going on in Mandai. Wow, I didn't think of this. Yes, it is important to learn about death as well as life in the mangroves!
But is it possible to identify the species of dead trees? Here's some challenging dead trees ...
Mystery dead tree no. 1
Mystery dead tree no. 2
This dead tree might be a Buta-buta (Excocaria agallocha) because of the multiple trunks and the circular cut out portions on the bark which is typical damage caused by the Mangrove longicorn beetle (Aeolesthes holosericeus) that feeds on Buta-buta trees.
Our mangrove trees are quite tenacious! We often come across half dead trees struggling to live on. This one is growing new roots!
This tree that fell over has thrown up new branches perpendicular to the fallen trunk!
Dan also told me about a fascinating study his team is doing at Mandai and elsewhere to learn more about sedimentation rates in our mangroves.
Today, I returned to Mandai with Rick and Wei Kit for more explorations of the area. Here they are discussing how to deal with dead trees.
Today, we noticed several large trees that look like they toppled over very recently. Oh dear!
Oh no, another big tree that looked like it just fell recently. Perhaps during yesterday's stormy weather?
Over the two days, we came across some interesting trees such as the first Tengar putih (Ceriops tagal) that I've seen at Mandai! It's a big tree!
We also came across the Critically Endangered Ipil (Intsia bijuga). Other special plants we saw included several of the Critically Endangered Limau lelang (Merope angulata). Some were blooming and fruiting. And we also saw many patches of the Critically Endangered Kalak kambing (Finalysonia obovata).
We also had a look at the biggest that Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata) that I've seen. This tree is Critically Endangered. As usual, Dr John Yong's 'blue' guidesheet is invaluable in helping us sort out the identification of mangrove trees! More about Dr Yong and how to download his guidesheets.
At first I was confused by this plant but later on I realised its the Tit-berry (Allophylus cobbe)!
There seems to be much flowering and fruiting in the mangroves during our visits. The Endangered Dungun air (Brownlowia tersa) was blooming and fruiting profusely!
We came across several Ant-house plants (Dischidia sp.). The Buta-buta (Excocaria agallocha) were fruiting too, as were the Api-api bulu (Avicennia rumphiana) and many of the Tumu (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) were bearing large fat propagules. We also saw flowering Api-api putih (Avicennia alba), but none of the Api-api ludat (Avicennia officinalis) that I saw were blooming or fruting.
We had a look at a thicket of Perepat (Sonneratia alba). It's amazing to see so many of them. I suspect they are all Perepat trees, but Rick will be properly checking them for his study.
There are all kinds of animals on the trees. Among the most fascinating was this very well camouflaged and enormous caterpillar. When we approached, the black portions fluffed up alarmingly!
Along the way, we noticed portions of chewed up stilt roots. What had chewed the roots? Squirrel? Monkey? Rick spotted the monkey on our earlier trip. Hmmm.
The rare Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii) is still doing very well at Mandai. Dan shared with me an intriguing study into the interaction between this seagrass and settling mangrove seedlings. Apparently the findings are going to be published soon. That's so exciting!
I had a closer look at the Beccari's seagrass and noticed this little thing sticking out under a cluster of leaves. Is it a flower?!
Today, we went to another part of Mandai and here's the point around where I stopped doing the wizard stick thing the last time I tried to help Rick with measuring elevation at Mandai.
There used to be a kampung in this mangrove. Dan pointed out a streetlight in the middle of the mangrove! There were also remains of houses, such as foundations and stairs leading to nowhere. Read more about Mandai mangroves on Siva's excellent compilation.
As we were leaving, we noticed massive flowering by a durian tree (Durio zibethinus). Another thing to motivate us to return to check up on this wonderful mangrove.
I also took the opportunity to check up on the Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) at Kranji. Wow, the tree sure produced a lot of propagules recently. Although as usual, some were chewed up by crabs.
It's a great pleasure to spend time in the mangroves with others who are also excited about mangroves! Time just flies by and we can't wait to go back and learn more about this fascinating ecosystem! Thanks to Rick for the excellent lunches, much needed drinks and to Dan and Wei Kit for the great company. I learnt a lot from these trips.

To find out more, come for tomorrow's Biodiversity Symposium where Dan and his team will talk about their work at Mandai. As well as 20 other speakers on all kinds of fascinating work and insights into the biodiversity of Singapore! I'm certainly looking forward to it!

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