15 November 2012

Surprises on Labrador

We had several surprises while doing TeamSeagrass monitoring on Labrador. Happy as well as sad surprises.
For the first time, I saw the fruits of Spoon seagrass! Alas, we also came across a 50m long abandoned driftnet and lots of litter.

Just as we were starting, the weather turned ugly. While we can still work in rain, we have serious respect for lightning. We hurried to shelter under the walkway during the lively "light and sound show". How nice that these days we can use a smart phone to check up on NEA's satellite map of the latest rain situation which updates every 15 minutes. The map shows we are close to the big angry red patch where the weather is worst, but that it would probably clear up soon.

And true enough, the lightning soon stopped although it kept raining. So it was time to get back to monitoring the seagrasses.
While Andy monitored east of the jetty where the seagrasses are lush, Pei Yan and I monitored west of the jetty where the seagrasses are less abundant. Mostly Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) with  Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) nearer the high water mark, and nice long Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). It was good to see nice long Tape seagrasses, 50-60cm long as they should be. My sense is that things haven't changed much seagrass-wise since our last Labrador monitoring in July.
Happy surprise no. 1: What are those tiny blobs in between the leaves of the Spoon seagrass? They were fruits! I've never seen them before.
After the monitoring, I had a quick look at the low water mark to look for corals. Happy surprise no. 2: I saw about 6 small (about 15cm) colonies of branching Montipora corals (Montipora sp.)! I also saw several tiny colonies of boulder corals.
There were also scattered patches of sponges and zoanthids, as well as several different kinds of seaweeds. I didn't see as many corals as I did on our last monitoring survey at Labrador in July. Probably because the Sargassum bloom covered large parts of the shore.
The shore is still far from what it used to be before the coastal works took place nearby. There were a lot more and larger corals here, as this photo taken in 2005 shows.

Labrador reef
Happy surprise no. 3: A white sea urchin (Salmacis sp.) washed up on the shore. So far, in the South, I've only seen these at Cyrene Reef. We put it in some water and its spines moved a bit, albeit feebly. Alas, we didn't come across any other sea urchins among the seagrasses during the survey.
Labrador has the last natural rocky shore in the South (we have natural rocky shores in the North on Changi). It is very close to the massive reclamation for the new Pasir Panjang Container Terminal. The shore was also impacted by a huge trench dug into it (called a cofferdam) to relocate service pipelines to Pulau Bukom.
On the rocky shore, there was the usual assortment of little snails, onch slugs, anemones and lots of sea slaters.
Not all the suprises were happy ones. Sad surprise no. 1: Big pieces of pipes are washing up on the shore. They look suspiciously like parts of the Seacil project.
The large slab from the seacil project is still there, and I could see some smaller slabs here and there.
[Update: Andy shared on his blog, this photo of what looks like new seacils washing up on the seagrass meadows. Oh dear!]
There's also a lot of large litter on the shore, including lots of BBQ grills. Which is surprising as the shore is closed to public access.
Sad surprise no. 2: We came across a long driftnet laid on the low water mark. Fortunately, we are always equipped with scissors and bag to remove such nets.
"Help me get the net to higher shore!" I yell at Andy as the tide comes in. He stops instead to take a photo of me struggling with the net. I must admit, it's much better than the photos I took of us at work on the net.
Photo by Andy Dinesh on facebook.
The net was about 50m long. It seemed newly laid possibly yesterday during public holiday?
Photo by Andy Dinesh on facebook.
What a relief that we didn't find any fishes trapped in the net. But we found 6 small (each about 10cm long) Spider conch snails (Lambis lambis) trapped in the net.
And also one large crab (body width about 10cm), possibly a Red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus). It was still alive.
Pei Yan and Andy carefully release the trapped animals. Then, together with Jim, we hauled out the net. It's another sad entry for the Project Driftnet blog.
Earlier on, Andy had been collecting all the tossed BBQ grills. There were 101 of them! Thanks to Andy, Pei Yan and Jim for hauling out the net, in a large pile next to the gate to the shore.
When I got home, I tried hard to take better photos of the Spoon seagrass fruits. One of the fruits had split open, releasing teeny tiny seeds which were very difficult to shoot. The seeds didn't float at all. They sunk straight to the bottom. The sample of fruits will be pressed and given to the Herbarium.
It's hard enough trying to take a photo of tiny seagrass parts without the cat sneaking up to drink the water when my back was turned. Kimmy seems to like salty water and she often licks the TeamSeagrass tapes too when I am washing them.
It's sad that people still trespass onto the shore when there are signs that we should keep off the shore due to ongoing marine conservation work.
Labrador shore and the jetty are now permanently closed to the public due to safety issues. The natural cliffs along the shore are not very stable. Thanks to Yuet Hsin of NParks for permission to monitor.

For years, next to Labrador, there has been massive reclamation, dredging  and other coastal works for the new Pasir Panjang Container Terminal which includes underwater blasting. Hopefully, as the massive construction nearby comes to an end, the seagrasses and other marine life at Labrador can return. It is only through long-term monitoring that we can learn more about what is happening on this shore.

More about TeamSeagrass and how you can volunteer to join the Team.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Andy shares more about parts of seacils and BBQ grills that littered the shore
  • Pei Yan shares more about her first time monitoring seagrasses

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the story. And the photo of you with the net was very nice!



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