28 July 2013

Beccari hunting at Mandai mangroves: Success!

Hurray, we found lots of the rare seagrass at Mandai mangroves, just overlooking the skyscrapers at Johor Baru!
I'm doing the hunt to prepare for the upcoming Mandai mangrove and mudflat workshop on 31 Aug (Sat), which will bring together lots of people who care about Mandai mangroves.

I was quite perplexed when I didn't see this seagrass in the usual places at Mandai during my trip earlier in Jul 2013. This is what I saw in Mar 2011 when I first visited Mandai.
Today, the greenish stuff I saw in some of the locations where I used to see the seagrass, turned out to be just green slime on mud. Oh dear.
But we pushed on and, aha, we came across a small clump of loose Becarri's seagrass! It is distinguished from other seagrasses in Singapore by its narrow long leaves that emerge in a rosette of five. Out of water, the seagrass often lies flat on the surface and is thus dismissed as slime or seaweed.
A little further, I finally saw a small patch of the seagrasses actually growing on the mud. Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii) is listed as Critically Endangered in Singapore. Globally, it is considered a rare and uncommon seagrass with a distribution restricted to the Bay of Bengal and South China Sea
And a few more tiny patches in the soft squishy middle.
Not everything plant-like on the mud is seagrass. Some of the seagrass patches had hairy black stuff growing on them.
There were also clumps of finely branching seaweeds growing among some of the seagrasses.
Encouraged, we walked further in and saw thicker growths of the seagrasses growing among Perepat  (Sonneratia alba) seedlings and trees.
Indeed, I often see mangrove seedlings in the middle of or near these seagrasses.
More patches among Perepat seedlings.
Wow, lots of seagrass  here on a super soft mud flat.
Once again, lots of young Perepat trees among the seagrasses.
Thanks to Jason for being my mangrove buddy for the day. The morning was really hot and I think I nearly got heat stroke struggling on this mudflat. Fortunately, I managed to get back safely. Jason also shared awesome photos of spiders and other sightings during our trip. Thanks Jason!
I've plotted out the points where I saw Beccari's seagrass today. Alas, I didn't manage to cover much ground. Here's the kml file from my Google Drive.
The points include photos of the Beccari's seagrass seen at that point. It seems you can only see the photos if you load the kml file on your Google Earth. The photos don't show up on Google Drive.
We also stopped by the small Critically Endangered Limau lelang (Merope angulata) shrub. It was blooming and Jason spotted the fruits.
Today, some of the Hoya climbers were blooming! From the pretty flowers, it is obvious how they got the common name of Wax flowers.
Some parts of the mangroves at thick with live fat clams! These look like Lokan (Geloina sp. aka Polymesoda sp.)? The clam that Dr Tan Koh Siang says is so well adapted to being out of water that you can keep one in your drawer for a month (see the video clip of Dr Tan sharing about this clam during the Mega Marine Survey at Admiralty Park).
There were lots of plastic bottles tied to this tree. An ominous sign, probably the bottles are used as floats for driftnets. We met four men in the mangroves, sitting around seeming to wait for something. Jason saw one man catch a bird in a net.
There were in fact, many discarded fishing nets on Mandai mangroves. We probably need to organise yet another net clean up with Project Driftnet for this.
Oh dear, there are still many freshly fallen trees at Mandai. I can't remember if I've seen this fallen tree before, there are so many of them.
Mandai mangroves are beautiful and under threat. Fortunately, people who care about Mandai will come together on 31 Aug (Sat) for the Mandai mangrove and mudflat workshop.
To share and discuss Mandai's amazing flora, fauna, geomorphology as well as how we can conserve Mandai mangroves, here's the full programme (I'll be doing a brief presentation on the Becarri seagrass found at Mandai). All are welcome to attend this free workshop, sign up online here. The workshop is organised by a team led by N. Sivasothi and Dan Friess.

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