25 April 2012

Wild shores in the city: Berlayar Creek

Close to the heart of the city are mangroves, seagrasses and reefy bits! And now, there's a boardwalk for easy viewing at all tides!
Today, I'm at Berlayar Creek to monitor the seagrasses there as part of TeamSeagrass. I also got a chance to share the shore with NParks.

Yuet Hsin and her colleagues are planning to do guided walks here for the public. How nice! Here she is taking a photo of a Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) just in front of the boardwalk! I saw more of them along the shore.
There are good patches of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) just off the newly built boardwalk at Berlayar Creek!
After I quickly did the monitoring, with more NParks colleagues joining, we decided to see what we can show to ordinary people on this shore. There's lots of marine life under the rocks! Sea anemones, crabs, sponges, squishy stuff, worms!
We had a quick look at the natural rocky shore. It  is full of snails. One way to tell them apart is to look at the kind of 'door' that each has to seal up the shell opening. There were also some tiny sea anemones, and onch slugs.
Among the amazing snails on this shore are Nerite snails (Family Neritidae) that have different patterns on the round shell. These nervous snails will drop off a rock if they are alarmed, bouncing in all directions like marbles. This is probably how they can quickly escape from predators like crabs.
This stretch of rocky shore is edged by a reefy portion, indicated by the curtain of brown Sargassum seaweeds. We saw a few small hard corals, one small flowery soft coral, some sponges and many Carpet anemones! I was too busy talking and forgot to take photos! Next to this shore is the Marina at Keppel Bay which has awesome marine life too!
There is also a tiny stretch of natural coastal forest here with some interesting large trees that I blogged about earlier. The Saga tree got a bit chopped but hopefully it will grow back. And we spot this strange tree that is some kind of fig, I'm not sure which kind.
Here's a closer look at the fig!
We also came across a fat juicy Peanut worm! On the rest of the shore, I only saw a few Acorn worms, although there were many large solitary tubeworms (Diopatra sp.).
There's a beautiful clean sand bar across the mouth of the Creek. We notice the big prints of a large bird on the sand! There are also signs of burrowing crabs!
As we explored the rest of the shore, we also came across a small patch (about 1.5m long) of Spoon seagrasses next to the seawall at the Keppel Golf Club.
We have a quick look at the mangroves and spotted a longer stretch of Spoon seagrasses growing among the mangrove tree roots on the side of the Creek next to Keppel Golf Club!
The seagrasses look healthy! One of the most exciting mangrove trees here are the Bakau pasir (Rhizophora stylosa) which is listed as vulnerable. There are several of these trees along Berlayar Creek. According to Dr John Yong "most importantly, botanically speaking for Singapore, Tanjung Berlayar is the only place on Singapore mainland to have at least 10 trees of Rhizophora stylosa."
Just across from this shore are the natural cliffs and wild shores of Sentosa. Here, there are also all kinds of interesting marine life from hard corals to seagrasses, and many rare plants growing on the beautiful natural cliffs.
As we left the shore, we also had a look at some of the wonderful native coastal trees planted in the park area near the seawall. There's lots here for ordinary to learn and marvel about Singapore's marine and coastal biodiversity! The shores here are so interesting that volunteers of the Leafmonkey Workshop conducted the finale of the Guides of Singapore shores workshops with a field trip to Berlayar Creek to practice what we had learned.

Read more about the boardwalk and download a DIY Trail-Guide on the NParks website. More about the opening of the boardwalk in Jan 2012, how it was built and more background on this shore.

Alas, during out trip today, we saw lots of golf balls gathered at the usual spot under the boardwalk. Fortunately, this time, there were many hands, which made quick work of collecting and removing the golf balls.
Some of the golf balls have been on the shore for so long that they are totally encrusted with marine life.
It was good to be able to remove the golf balls, as well as some trash we found on the shore. Thanks to all the help from NParks!
After blogging about my last trip to Berlayar Creek in February 2012, one blog reader kindly highlighted the golf ball issue with Keppel Club. He also shared the Club's reply. The Club had said that their maintenance team had been directed to investigate the situation and will do a clean up to remove the golf balls within the next few days. And that they will do their part to prevent golf balls from entering the creek.

Alas, it seems whatever action taken by the Club has not stopped golf balls from entering the Creek.

Update 26 Apr: I wrote to the Club again after today's trip, and received an immediate update from the Club:
We have carried numerous clean up since we have received your last feedback. In addition we have installed a new metal screen at the mouth of the drain outlet to catch any golf balls that could have drain through the driving range. However from our own clean up, the golf balls revealed that mostly are not range balls. In addition the location where you picked the golf balls are out of the range of play. We are in the process of investigating. We will continue to clean up as much and as often as possible but more importantly we want to stop the source of the problem.

It's good to know that the Club is doing their best to stop this problem!

More about flora and fauna seen on Berlayar on previous trips:
  • Finale of the Guides of Singapore Shores work shop in Aug 10 
  • What can we see at Berlayar Creek?
  • More mangrove flora and fauna seen in Mar 09.
  • More rocky shore creatures and big trees at Bukit Cermin seen in Mar 09.
  • More reefy creatures seen during a low tide seen in Apr 09.
  • Quick look at Berlayar shore in Jan 09.
  • Canoeing up Berlayar mangroves in May 10.


  1. Dear Ria,

    It is good to know that the flora and fauna at Berlayer Creek continues to thrive today, after the completion of the boardwalk.

    So what do you think of the job done by URA and their consultants with this boardwalk? It has definitely made the habitat more accessible to everyone, and hopefully with the right education and outreach programmes, more will do their bit to protect and preserve this area.

  2. Thanks for dropping by the blog! I shared my thoughts about this in this earlier post http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2012/01/berlayar-creek-boardwalk-is-open.html

  3. From post: "And we spot this strange tree that is some kind of fig, I'm not sure which kind."

    Your photos show the locally critically-endangered strangler tree-fig Ficus kerkhovenii (Johore Fig). There are a number of this fig species at the nearby Sentosa.

    Besides the somewhat flattish plane of the leaf-blade & the distinct creamy-white midrib, notice how the primary veins along the midrib are of opposite or almost opposite arrangement.

    Incidentally, Ron Yeo took a photo of the same tree -- 'Berlayer Creek & Bukit Chermin Boardwalk' (18 Sep 2012).

    The cover page of the e-book 'Native Fig Species as a Keystone Resource for the Singapore Urban Environment' (RMBR - 05 Mar 2013) shows the ripe figs of Ficus kerkhovenii being eaten by an Oriental Pied Hornbill.

    Also, you had previously blogged about 2 specimens you saw by flashlight at Changi -- 'Return to a Changi underwater garden' (08 Sep 2010). :)

    From post: "Some of the golf balls have been on the shore for so long that they are totally encrusted with marine life."

    Based on your photo of the IKEA bag, it seems that the said marine life-crusted golf was removed from the site & discarded ?

    I'm curious as to what the recommended SOP is for treating coastal & terrestrial man-made trash that has been profusely colonized by wild flora &/or fauna.

    For instance, if the golf ball is covered by moss or crustaceans (possibly of endangered/ vulnerable species), would it be better to leave the golf ball where it is ? Or would this create a potential hazard ? (eg. choking -- though what kind of wildlife eats golf balls ... sea snakes ?)

  4. Thanks Pat for the ID of the tree.

    Yes, it is difficult to judge what should be left behind with regard to encrusted litter.

    In my experience, marine life that readily encrusts plastic and litter in a short time are usually not rare and endangered. In fact, they are usually common and may even be invasive.

    Golf balls, unfortunately, are not solid plastic. There's stuff inside which does leak out when the outer layer breaks. I have no idea what the stuff is and whether it can harm marine life.

    For those of us who do a fair bit of beach cleanup, we do indeed leave behind trash when it does more harm than good to remove it.

    For me, this usually means large trash that have already formed a complex habitat for many creatures, and trash which does not harm the environment by leaking stuff (e.g., rubber tires are usually ok as long as they don't move and abrade nearby corals etc).

    As you can imagine, this is mainly an issue of judgement based on experience. And different people will have different views of the same situation. Even the same person's views may change with experience.

    To me, I am glad enough if people take the time and effort to remove trash from the beach. I won't beat up such people for issues of judgement.

  5. @ Ria: "In my experience, marine life that readily encrusts plastic and litter in a short time are usually not rare and endangered. In fact, they are usually common and may even be invasive."

    Thanks very much for the elaboration & guidelines on what kind of marine trash to remove or leave in-situ.

    Unlike their terrestrial & mangrove counterparts, I'm not so familiar which beach/ marine fauna & flora (sea grasses, sea weeds, sea algae) are the exotic invasive or problematic species. If you encounter such species, perhaps you could highlight them in your future posts.

  6. Here's a recent article about marine invasives in Singapore which I posted to the wildsingapore news blog: 'Little risk of marine alien invasion' in Singapore, Non-native species may hitch ride here via ships' ballast, but few establish themselves
    by Grace Chua, Straits Times 12 May 13; http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.sg/2013/05/little-risk-of-marine-alien-invasion-in.html

    I earlier also posted in this blog about a talk given by Prof Peter Ng about exotic and invasive aliens in Singapore, which has more links to the issues. http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2009/05/scary-aliens-in-singapore.html

    Hope these are helpful?

    1. @ Ria - Thanks for the links. So there are currently 17 alien marine & estuarine fauna & protist species established in S'pore's coastal waters.

      Checking out the alien list (pg 81) from 'Status of estuarine and marine non-indigenous species in Singapore' (Jaffar et al. - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 2012 v60, s25, pp79-92) ...

      * 2 are dinoflagellates, one of which (Gymnodinium catenatum) can cause toxic blooms;

      * 10 of the 12 alien fishes are cichilds, a goby & a guppy -- all clearly invasive in S'pore, occuring not just in estuaries but actually dominating freshwater urban waterways here.

      * The other 5 aliens not mentioned above are:
      - Larimichthys crocea (Yellow Croaker)
      - Sciaenops ocellatus (Channel Bass)
      - Mytilopsis sallei (Black-Striped Mussel)
      - Brachidontes striatulus (bivalve mussel)
      - Hydroides sanctaecrucis (Caribbean Serpulid Tubeworm)

      I'm not so familiar with the local populations of the above 5 species, & I can't find any mention of them in your posts. Have you come across them during your coastal/ reef/ mangrove visits ? Are they merely present & breeding, or actually invasive at the expense of native species equivalents ?

  7. Great check list of invasives! I'm not familiar with those 5 species either.

    Your questions are great and would probably make good subjects for a thorough scientific study.



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