02 February 2013

Inspiration at Mandai mangroves

I've been feeling down since the 7 million population Land Use Plan came out. The best cure for this, I thought, would be go on a field trip!
So this morning, I joined Rick and Wei Kit at the beautiful Mandai mangroves. And regained some perspective and enthusiasm for the work ahead of us.

Rick and Wei Kit are working on their own time to complete the mapping of every tree at Mandai mangroves. This is probably one of the few studies that maps trees in a mangrove so comprehensively. Rick says "Only 1,500 trees to go!" Rick and Wei Kit are both Malaysians but feel deep passion for their work which they hope will help support the conservation of Mandai mangroves.
Mandai mangroves is an integral part of a complex mangrove system that includes Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and mangroves all the way west to Lim Chu Kang. Mandai mudflats are also important feeding grounds for shorebirds which are not only found at Sungei Buloh.
It's the migratory season now so there were lots of white dots on the mudflats, with Johor Baru on the horizon.
There were even shorebirds further upstream (yellow arrow).
Here's a blurry photo of the birds along the stream. They seemed to be enjoying the morning sun.
I'm afraid I abandoned to the gentlemen to try to document the plants and animals at Mandai. Here's a bunch of tiny gobies in a pool. There are two Bumble bee gobies (Brachygobius kabiliensis) and one other larger sandy coloured goby.
As usual, there are lots of little crabs in the mangroves. Some of them are quite colourful.
There were many spiders, including this tiny one that made a delicately patterned web. There were bees and wasps too.
While trying to take a photo of this dragonfly, I also photographed a spider nearby! Which I didn't notice until I got home. There's so much more to discover and learn at Mandai mangroves.
I took the time to take photos of common mangrove plants which I've often ignored in the past. The Buta-buta trees (Excoecaria agallocha) were blooming. Also called Blind-your-eye because the sap may cause temporary blindness, male and female flowers are found on separate trees. Male flowers are long and fluffy while female flowers are much shorter.
Top row: male flowers, Bottom row: female flowers.
I also came across this delicate plant draped on a tree. I think it's some kind of Ant-house plant (Dischidia sp.) that provides shelter in inflated leaves. There were a few tiny white flowers and lots of ants. As well as two little 'inch-worms' that were superbly camouflaged. Probably larvae of some kind of insect.
Mandai has magnificently tall trees. The gorgeous weather today made for pretty photos. Alas, many of these large trees have fallen over, you can see the roots of two fallen trees in this photo. Erosion is probably one of the main causes for this. Erosion is a serious problem for mangroves all along the Northern shoreline including Sungei Buloh.
Every time I visit Mandai, I see newly fallen trees. Sigh. Today, I saw one Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata) tree was badly damaged by a fallen tree. Gedabu trees are rare in our mangroves because we have lost so much of our back mangroves. In Mandai, so far I've only seen two Gedabu trees, now down to one.
On a more positive note, Rick says he noticed there are many seedlings settling in Mandai, especially in the meadows of Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii). This seagrass is considered globally rare and uncommon. But the seagrass is abundant at Mandai as well as Kranji and Sungei Buloh.
There's lots of other ongoing scientific studies at Mandai mangroves: these look like Ben's study on flowering patterns in mangrove trees.
I remember Dan Friess sharing with us that Mandai is among the best studied mangroves in the world. Not just many studies, but also over a long period of time. This and other fascinating aspects are outlined in "Mandai mangrove, Singapore: Lessons for the conservation of Southeast Asia’s mangroves".  Hopefully, this large and growing body of scientific work will help convince of the value of Mandai mangroves.

There is a great deal of work ahead of us to document, raise awareness, and consult with and persuade decision-makers to consider conservation of all our natural heritage. Fortunately, there are many people who have been doing these for some time already. We just have to do more of it, lots more.

Rick and Wei Kit's dedication remind me that each one of us has to do our part in this effort. We can't give up now. Thank you guys!

You CAN make a difference for our mangroves! Ordinary people can help with a project to collect, count and sort mangrove seedlings at Sungei Buloh. Or just come and see our fascinating mangroves for yourself. The Naked Hermit Crabs conduct free monthly guided walks at the mangroves of Chek Jawa and there are weekly free guided walks at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

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