15 April 2013

Seagrass-Watch check up on Chek Jawa

Back again with Seagrass-Watch, this time to check up on Chek Jawa.
As usual, the small team from TeamSeagrass and I learn so much from Len and Rudi about our seagrasses.

The Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) are doing very well and cover a large area. Len is having a closer look at them.

The other seagrass species seen on Chek Jawa include Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.), Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa)
Len is fascinated by the Fern seagrasses found on the intertidal on Chek Jawa. Elsewhere, they are usually found in deeper water. In fact, he told me that he first took notice of Chek Jawa when he saw photos of Fern seagrasses in the intertidal in the Asian Geographic article about Chek Jawa written by N. Sivasothi with photos by Alan Yeo done before reclamation was deferred. Wow, I didn't know that this article would have such outreach and eventually result in the wonder seagrass monitoring programme that Seagrass-Watch helped to start.
One of the rarest seagrasses in the world, Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii) can still be found in small patches near the boardwalk. This small seagrass emerges in a rosette of about 5 narrow leaflets. While Spoon seagrasses emerge in a pair of leaflets. This is the easiest way to tell apart these seagrasses.
Today I crawled low once again to look for bryozoans growing on seagrass blades for the upcoming Bryozoan and Hydroid Workshop. So I had a hermit crab's view of visitors on the shore.
There are still lots of Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) on the shore.
There were also many cerianthids aka peacock anemones although they are not true sea anemones.
There were lots of healthy large Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) on the shore today. Len is very impressed with this because elsewhere in the region, these sea cucumbers are over harvested and it is rare to see such large ones unmolested in a seagrass meadow.
I saw several Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) encrusted with living barnacles.
I saw this cute little Common whelk (Nassarius livescens) with a pair of hitchhiking sea anemones.
I also saw some Plain sand stars (Astropecten sp.), several Warty pink sea cucumbers (Cercodemas anceps), a  Smooth sea cucumber, a dying Ball sea cucumbers (Phyllophorus sp.) above ground and many Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius infraspinatus). I didn't see any Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis).
Sadly, I didn't manage to find any bryozoans on seagrasses today. The seagrasses at Chek Jawa were too 'clean'. The only thing I found was this clump which looks like tiny eggs. Seagrass meadows are a great nursery for all kinds of creatures!
I did come across clumps of tiny hydroids growing on a seaweed.
As usual, I take the opportunity to check on the general health of Chek Jawa.ll the Haddon's carpet anemones I saw elsewhere in the meadows seemed alright, except for two near the boardwalk that were partially bleaching.
Len also pointed out some Lyngbya, a kind of cyanobacteria that can be toxic to dugongs and to humans, and if they bloom too much may smother seagrasses. Len explains that Lyngbya grows quickly when there is lots of iron in the water as well as nutrients.
Oh dear, near two dugong feeding trails, we come across an abandoned driftnet at Chek Jawa. Here's more on the Project Driftnet blog about how we removed the net and released a small crab trapped in it, and recent encounters with driftnets and netting on Chek Jawa.
We're thankful that Alan from Ubin NParks was with us for the trip. Not only for arranging everything for the trip, but also for explaining things on Chek Jawa. Such as how the pontoon that was originally here had been knocked loose by waves and moved elsewhere.
Since they haven't been up the Jejawi Tower, I brought Len and Rudi up for a quick look. There's a great panoramic view of the Chek Jawa flats as well as Pulau Tekong, the hills in Johor, Pengerang and the Johor Strait.
We dropped by the Ubin Volunteer Hub to have a look at some of the facilities there to hold a possible seagrass training session. It's always nice to see the mosaic of photos at the Hub which highlights some of the efforts for Chek Jawa before reclamation was deferred.
The basketball court opposite the Volunteer Hub is being modified to create a shelter and from what I understand, a solar powered project.
We didn't stop at the village along the way back, but I managed to snap this shot of the iconic blue Malay kampong house that was unfortunately seriously damaged when the nearby 90-year old durian tree fell on it last year. Last we heard, there was an effort to rebuild the house. The rebuilding seems to be going on slowly.
The team met up again in the afternoon for some serious Seagrass Planning. Along the way to the NParks meeting room, we came across a little Paradise tree snake (in yellow circle).
The snake was very rapidly crawling in between the bars on the fence!
The Paradise tree snake can glide by leaping off into the air and forming it's body into a curved cylinder like half a bamboo. We thought we would see the snake glide. Instead it gently dropped onto the plants below the boardwalk. Check out Nick Baker's awesome fact sheet and photos of this snake on his Ecology Asia website.
We had fruitful meeting to discuss some exciting plans for TeamSeagrass training, as well as talks about seagrasses for ordinary people too. Len will also be joining the Southern Expedition of the Mega Marine Survey to direct surveys of our seagrasses so we can find out what animals are living there!
What an exhausting day! But I'm looking forward to all these exciting activities ahead of us.

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