02 August 2015

Beting Bronok's slow death continues

An overdose of nudibranchs at Beting Bronok this morning! I saw about six of these fat Ceratosoma gracillimum more commonly seen by divers in reefs.
We also came across many fascinating marine creatures. But alas, Beting Bronok continues to decline and appears to be slowly dying.

I saw six of these black Haekel's anemones. The largest number of them that I've seen on a shore. This is similar to what we saw in Jun 2014.
I also came across a green Haekel's anemone!
There were still many Haddon's carpet anemones. None of those I saw were bleaching. I saw one Swimming anemone. The rest of the team also saw some special anemones such as the Glass anemone, Snaky anemone and Fire anemone.
Kok Sheng and the rest of the team spotted five Knobbly sea stars. We only saw one Knobbly sea star  Jun 2014 and Jul 2013.
I saw a few large Thorny sea urchins and one White sea urchin.  I also came across one small Red scaly sea star which is dull on the upperside but usually reddish on the underside. I also a few Orange sea cucumbers, two Thorny sea cucumbers, and some Ball sea cucumbers. None of saw a feather star. We saw few in Jun 2014 and many in Jul 2013.
I saw a tiny Bobtail squid.
And a small Curvespine cuttlefish.  Among the fishes I saw were a small Bartail flathead, and some filefishes. But we didn't find any seahorses today.
At sunrise, I finally spotted a small Reef octopus. The rest also found interesting nudibranchs such as Bornella and Blue dragon. I saw many large Spotted black flatworms, the rest of the team also saw the one with purple spots. There were some Swimming crabs.
I've never before seen a living Noble volute snail with such heavy encrustations on its shell. What does this suggest? I would imagine any creature that tries to settle on the shell would be smothered when the snail burrows in teh sand, which these snails do often.
I saw a few small Noble volutes, a few Calf moon snails, many Onyx cowries and some Ovum cowries. None of us saw the Baler snail which we did see in Jun 2014. There were still some Fan shell clams.
There were many large patches of green seaweeds of various kinds. And the Button zoanthids now cover a large area. Large Biscuit sea stars remain numerous.
There are still a handful of healthy looking sea fans here and there.
I saw 1-3 clumps of these sea fans which are far more abundant at Changi and even the East Coast: Skinny sea fan, Candelabra sea fans, Gnarled sea fans. This is similar to what we saw in Jun 2014.
I saw one small clump of Tree sea fan and another yellowish one that I don't often see.
Like the sea fans I saw at Pulau Ubin yesterday, some of the large sea fans at Beting Bronok were heavily covered in growths at the tips. Many of the feathery, branching animals were coated with a slimy black hairy growth. Might be some kind of cyanobacteria or marine fungus? We observed the same growths during our survey in Jun 2014 and Jul 2013.
I noticed many of the sea fans had a film among their 'branches'. Some had dead tips or hairy things growing on their tips.
The most abundant sponges are similar to those recently seen at Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu: Melted chocolate sponge and Yellow bumpy sponges.
There's a sprinkling of colourful sponges. Most of the sponges that are large are not so pretty.
Here's some of the interesting colourful sponges that I saw. All in very small clumps.
I also several of these leaf-like sponges that so far I've only seen on Beting Bronok. I saw them too in Jun 2014.
There were still a handfull of medium sized Boulder pore corals. A few Branching pore corals and some tiny patches of Neat hexa corals. None of those I saw were bleaching. I didn't see any other species of corals. There are fewer corals on Beting Bronok now than at Chek Jawa. The corals at Beting Bronok suffered badly from mass bleaching in 2010.
There were a few Pink flowery soft corals. Only a few Ball soft corals whereas in Jun 2014 we saw a lot more. There were also some clumps of Knobbly soft corals.
There were also many small clumps of various hydroids including Fern hydroids and the nasty Stinging hydroids. Also many Candy hydroidsalthough most of them were heavily covered in epiphytes.
There were also many Spiky sea pens, some Flowery sea pens and some Cerianthids. I didn't see any Slender sea pens.
Reef are rich because animals live on animals. Today, I saw an anemone shrimp on a carpet anemone, in sea fans there were little hermit crabs and winged oysters, and in sea pens pretty Painted porcelain crabs.
I came across a small area covered with a sprinkling of Spoon seagrass. This area had a thick layer (sank about to my knees) of very soft silty sediments. This is similar to what we saw in Jun 2014. Is the Beting changing from a rubbly shore to perhaps a more silty seagrassy one?
Every year we visit Benting Bronok, we see less and less marine life. This is what the shore looked like today. Mostly zoanthids, green seaweeds. Very few healthy reef life. Below are photos of what the shore looked like in years past.

Marine life on at Beting Bronok in 2014
Marine life on Beting Bronok in 2013.
Colourful marine life at Beting Bronok in 2012.
Beting Bronok in 2012.
Here's what Beting Bronok looked like ten years ago in 2003.
Beting Bronok in 2003.
Beting Bronok in 2003.
There used to be a wondrous variety of sea fans.
Sea fans on Beting Bronok in 2004.
Hopefully they will return as sea fans are common even on Changi shores. But lost forever probably are the wonderful Sunflower mushroom corals and other corals that we used to see here.

Where is Beting Bronok? What is it's status and future?

Click on image for larger view.
When the 2030 landuse plan by the Ministry of National Developmentwas announced, it was also announced that Beting Bronok and Pulau Unum have been granted 'Nature Area' status. As I understand it, this status means the area "will be kept for as long as possible until required for development". Here's an earlier about 'Nature Area' status seem to mean.

It was good to see that Beting Bronok remains alive and full of fascinating creatures. But to me, it seems to be in steady decline since the reclamation started at nearby Pulau Tekong . It has since also been affected by the flooding that led to mass deaths at Chek Jawa in 2007, and the coral bleaching in 2010 and a ferry ran aground on Beting Bronok in Jul 2011. Here's some old photos of marine life at Beting Bronok. We can only hope for the best for this wonderful reef on our Northern shore.

There are plans that may affect Beting Bronok a in the not too distant future. These include plans to locate at Pengerang Johor, a petrochemical complex that was rejected in Taiwan for environmental and health reasons.
Today, we didn't see any fish traps. We almost always see signs of fishing pressure on this reef on every survey. This suggests that even the fishermen don't find it productive to harvest on Beting Bronok. But we enjoyed a glorious sunrise.
Thanks to Chay Hoon for organising the trip. Our annual trips to Beting Bronok are bitter-sweet. Like visiting our favourite grandma and watching her painfully, slowly fade away. I feel privileged to have seen her at her best.

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