16 June 2018

Beting Bronok doing better?

Today, Beting Bronok seems to be doing better. With many more hard corals, some nice patches of colourful sponges and marine life, and larger expanses of seagrasses. Nevertheless, the shore remains a pale shadow of its former glory.
Living shores of Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
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.

Here's a video clip of the best part of Beting Bronok at sunrise.
Living Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
There are still many colourful sponges, and some sea fans on the small richest corner of Beting Bronok.
Living shores of Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
The most abundant sponge were Yellow bumpy sponges, which seemed to dominate this shore since our survey in Aug 2015. And there were a variety of many other sponges in small clumps. However, unlike during our last survey in Jun 2017, I didn't see melting sponges.
With so many sponges and things to eat, it's not surprising to see many nudibranchs. We saw many Blue dragons, I saw an enormous Jorunna nudibranch next to the blue sponge that it eats. I also saw an Armina nudibranch next to a sea pen, which it is probably thinking of eating. The rest of the team saw other kinds of nudibranchs, but none of us saw the Ceratosoma gracillimum nudibranch that we had been seeing in recent years.
Another animal that eats immobile creatures is the flatworm. Today, we saw lots of flatworms. The most abundant remains the Spangled flatworm as usual. But we also saw some Bayer's flatwormPleasing flatworm and Olive flatworm.
I saw a lot more hard corals, in numbers and species. I saw more than 15 Boulder pore corals, from small to medium sized. A few Branching pore corals and some small patches of Neat hexa corals. I even saw three small colonies of Anemone coral which I have not seen here since 2013. And also one small Hexagonal coral. This more than the number of colonies I saw on our survey in Jun 2017, and more than our survey in Jun 2016 when the corals were suffering from mass coral bleaching.
There were lots of Ball flowery soft corals, some of them quite large. Some had the White soft coral snapping shrimps. I saw a few Pink flowery soft corals and other flowery soft corals. There were not a lot of sea fans, and only two kinds: Candelabra sea fans and Gnarled sea fans. There were a lot of large Stinging hydroids as well as many other branching cnidarians.
The most abundant sea anemone were Swimming anemones. There were also many Haddon's carpet anemones. Kok Sheng saw a Haekel's anemone, and pointed out a Snaky anemone, and I saw a Glass anemone. There were many Spiky sea pens, some Flowery sea pens and I saw one sea pencil. I saw a few cerianthidsButton zoanthids still cover large areas of the flat but not as densely. I also saw a small patch of Sea mat zoanthids.
There were lots of small Swimming crabs everywhere. I also saw one Red egg crab, a Peacock tail anemoneshrimp, a sponge crab and a Velcro crab. Filefishes were abundant in the pools, and I saw one Copperband butterflyfish and a Yelloweye pufferfish. Kok Sheng saw a baby shark and seahorses!
There were lots of Orange sea cucumbers and some Ball sea cucumbers and a Smooth sea cucumber. I saw many large Biscuit sea stars, a few Thorny sea urchins and one Blue feather star. The rest of the team saw about 15 Knobbly sea stars and Kok Sheng saw a Bordered sea star.
There were many tiny octopuses everywhere. Some were white and pale, stranded at low tide. I saw a few small Noble volutes and some Onyx cowries. As well as an unidentified snail. There were not a lot of Fan clams, perhaps they are being collected? None of us saw the Baler snail.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that Spoon seagrasses have spread to large parts of the silty soft edges of the flats. The seagrasses had large leaf blades that were quite free of epiphytes. This is the largest extent of seagrasses that I've seen on Beting Bronok so far. On our last trip here in Jun 2017, there were only sprinkles of Spoon seagrasses here.
Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis)
How nice to come across a small patch of Hairy spoon seagrass. I had seen this too on our last survey in Jun 2017.
Hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens)
A small team of what appears to be researchers arrived on the shore close to sunrise
Researchers? on Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
Besides coral bleaching, other issues can also impact Beting Bronok. This appears to be a recent boat strike. With lots of dead corals churned up around a deeper hole on the side of the flat.
Boat strike on Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
We saw a man arrive on a sampan who appeared to be collecting on the shore.
Collecting on Beting Bronok, Jun 2018
We came across three traps on the flats. Only one had a filefish in it. We released the filefish.

There seems to be some recovery on Beting Bronok, although it remains a pale shadow of its former glory. This is what the shore looked like in years past...
Living shores of Beting Bronok
A bit more marine life in 2017.

Growths of marine life in Jun 2016.
Mostly zoanthids only on the shore, Aug 2015
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.

Thanks to Chay Hoon for organising the trip.

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.

Posts by others on this trip

Loh Kok Sheng shares some of his sightings

By Jianlin Liu

By Richard Kuah also on his blog.

By Chay Hoon.

By Sumita Thiagarajan

By Raj Kumar

By Chong Siew Men

More by Chong Siew Men

By Carol Phillips

By Sirius Ng

By Loh Kok Sheng

Others on this trip: Jesselyn Chua.

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