08 June 2019

Fiery seagrasses at Beting Bemban Besar!

I saw lots of Fire anemones today among the seagrasses of Beting Bemban Besar!
Seagrass meadows at Beting Bemban Besar (South), Jun 2019
One of our largest submerged reefs, it was great to see fresh green seagrasses in the middle of Triple B, as we affectionately call it. It was also a relief to that there was not much bleaching seen on the reefs here.

I saw several Fire anemones on a brief survey of this humungous shore. Anything with the word 'fire' in their common name probably has a very nasty sting. None of us have touched it to find out just how nasty it is...
The seagrasses formed many small patches that were more dense. While there was clumps of fluffy seaweeds among them, the seagrasses were mostly free of epiphytes. But I didn't come across many creatures living  among the seagrasses. The situation is somewhat similar to our last survey here in Aug 2018. Here's a brief video clip.
Seagrasses at Beting Bemban Besar, Jun 2019
Similar to my last visit in Aug 2018, I saw some small patches of Noodle seagrass. I also saw Spoon seagrass (small and large leaves), Needle seagrass (narrow and broad leaves), Sickle seagrass and Serrated ribbon seagrass.
There were many clumps of Tape seagrass with longer leaves (about 30cm) in the middle of the reef flat as well as among the reefier edge. There were some though, with cropped leaves. I had also seen some seagrass growths on the southern end of Beting Bemban Besar in Nov 2018. So perhaps the seagrasses are returning to this submerged reef? And perhaps they will then return to Pulau Semakau too?
There were not many animals among the seagrasses. I saw a snapping shrimp, an Orange striped hermit crabs, live Tellin clam, a dead Heart cockle and the skeleton of a Thick-edged sand dollar. There were moon snail trails in the sand. I saw more animals among the seagrasses during our last survey in Aug 2018.
There were many Giant carpet anemones among the seagrasses, but I didn't see any Haddon's carpet anemones, which are more typically found among seagrasses.
Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)
I also checked out the western reef edge briefly for the coral bleaching situation. This shore is not as rich as Terumbu Bemban which lies just opposite. But there are still many interesting corals. Here's a brief video of some.
Living reefs of Beting Bemban Besar, Jun 2019
I saw many clumps of Branching montipora corals, though they are not yet the dense field that used to be here. After the mass coral bleaching in 2016, during our last survey in May 2017, I observed that only about 20% survived. Today, there seems to be more colonies. They were alright. I saw some Acropora corals and most were alright although one was very pale.
I saw a small cluster of Circular mushroom corals they were pale or bleaching. There were also some Tongue mushroom corals. They were not bleaching.
I saw some Cauliflower corals, they were not bleaching. I saw several Sandpaper corals, they had pale edges. Anemone corals and Small goniopora coral were particularly abundant, all were alright except or one or two with pale polyps. I saw a few Brain corals and they were alright.
Most of the Disk corals I saw were alright, although a few were pale. Most of the Flowery disk corals were pale.
Some rare corals I saw included a Cabbage coral (stressed), several Anchor corals (not bleaching), a few Pebble corals (oddly coloured), a few Carnation corals (pale).
I only saw one Galaxy coral (pale). The Boulder pore corals were mostly alright although a few were pale or pink. As usual, I saw a lot of Merulinid corals, and only a few were pale and I saw only one small one that was bleaching.
The Leathery soft corals were mostly alright, with several large colonies.
Living shores of Beting Bemban Besar, Jun 2019
Although I came across this bunch of smaller ones which probably 'fragmented' from a bigger colony?
Omelette leathery soft coral (Sacrophyton sp.)
One of the Giant carpet anemones I saw was very pale but the rest were okay. Most of the Frilly anemones were alright except one that was very pale. I saw some Sea mat zoanthids with pale patches, and some clumps of bleaching Broad zoanthids. Let's hope the recent wet weather will cool things down so the marine life will stop feeling the heat stress.
Beting Bemban Besar is indeed huge. We have to make several trips to actually survey a good portion of it. This shore is rather tricky to land on. We are glad to have a safe trip and to avoid the rain again!
Landing on Beting Bemban Besar

More photos by others on this trip

Jianlin Liu

Lisa Lim

Teo Say Chong

Others on this trip: Chay Hoon, Geraldine, Say Chong.

Meanwhile, Liz was at Pulau Semakau with TeamSeaGrass. Here's what she saw.

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