14 November 2012

Blooming seagrasses of Pulau Semakau

The Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) are blooming today! With sprinkles of tiny male flowers floating on the water, often mistaken for styrofoam bits.
I had a great day out with TeamSeagrass monitoring the lush meadows there.

The female flowers are much bigger with three white long petals!
Before we left the mainland: "Can you find the stonefish in the guidesheet?" begins the safety briefing. It takes a while to find it even though the fish is labelled! There are too many other distracting animals. We discuss how to avoid stepping on a stonefish, and how to avoid other injuries. Watch your step and don't touch! Here's more about how to stay safe on a seashore with an online safety quiz.
It's raining when we arrive at the Landfill, but we press on and head out for the shelter near the shore for another briefing on how to fill up the datasheet. Meanwhile, a few of us check out the lighting situation.
Nor Aishah is a great teacher! She patiently explains the simple steps for completing the datasheet.
After negotiating the forest trail - new and improved! - we head out for the shore under cool dry skies. In the distance, emissions from the massive petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom just off the seagrass meadows and mangroves on Pulau Semakau.
We stop for a quick run through on seagrass ID, once again led by Nor Aishah. Those seagrasses can be tricky! On Pulau Semakau we have Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii), Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata), Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium), Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) and Needle seagrasses (Halodule sp.).
Then we're off to monitor the three sites on Pulau Semakau, spread out over about 2 kilometres!
How nice to see long Tape seagrasses on my line. Unlike at Cyrene in August, where they were mostly 'chomped' short. As usual, there is a good growth of Codium green seaweed (Codium sp.) among the seagrasses.
Alas, there are also large patches of bare sand, often with only a few clumps of 'chomped' Tape seagrasses only about 4-5cm long. TeamSeagrass monitoring over the last five years will hopefully tell us more about what is going on with our seagrass meadows.
After the monitoring, Hazwani and I head out to check some special plants that can be found on Pulau Semakau. Singapore has only two plants of the Critically Endangered Bonduc (Caesalpinia bonduc). The female plant here has produced lots of seed pods!
Hazwani works for NParks' National Biodiversity Centre and takes a few of the seeds to grow them and hopefully cultivate more of these precious plants.
Together, we also have a look at another Critically Endangered mangrove tree, the Api-api jambu (Avicennia marina). The leaves of the small tree seems to be a little yellowish. Oh dear.
But it is flowering and fruiting profusely. We also harvest some of the larger fruits to propagate. This rare mangrove tree is identified, among other features, by squarish stems and flattened ovalish fruits which are somewhat bluish.
Oh dear, we also find a short stretch of abandoned driftnet. It was about 20m long and had entangled a young mangrove sapling. We spent some time removing it.
Trapped in it was a huge Mud crab (Scylla sp.)! It was about 30cm wide! It was still very much alive.
Hazwani and I spent some time freeing the crab from the net. She also removed a small crab trap found among the mangrove trees.
Here's Mr Crab all cleared of net. A few of us are trying to keep track of abandoned driftnets under Project Driftnet. But I'm finding it hard to find time to do more systematic checks of our shores for these nets.
Nor Aishah and her team were still busy doing their monitoring by the time I dragged the pile of nets back to the entrance.
After the monitoring, the rest of the team had a brief look around the shore. We came across all kinds of interesting animals from small Common sea stars to octopuses, big Noble volute mama laying eggs, various nudibranchs, corals and more!
Here's some of the creatures Sean Yap saw and shared on facebook
Photos by Sean Yap on facebook.
The forest trail is usually infested with fierce mosquitoes. The regulars are well prepared to avoid being bitten. Here's a photo of me (in orange) and Sean Yap in our anti-mosquito get up. Thanks to Johnson Ong for taking our photo!
Photo by Johnson Ong on facebook.
But this trip was mostly mosquito free. We had a safe and productive monitoring session and the earlier wet weather made for a nice cool day.

TeamSeagrass is a volunteer programme that monitors many of our shores including Pulau Semakau, Chek Jawa and Cyrene Reef. Here's more about how to join TeamSeagrass

In a few hours, I'll be back on the shore monitoring the seagrasses at Labrador.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Sean Yap on facebook with interesting marine life seen after the monitoring. 
  • Johnson Ong on facebook with more about the Team and what we saw.

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