Monday, December 31, 2007

Moments from Pasir Ris Park

Pasir Ris Park is another place where many Singaporeans like to head to for a time of good relaxation or exercise. According to A guide to the mangroves of Singapore by Peter K L Ng and N Sivasothi, "Pasir Ris is Malay for 'beach bolt-rope', implying a narrow beach. The park is open 24 hrs, and there is no entrance fee. Bicycle rental is available at the park. The park, administered by the National Parks Board, is mostly for recreation with lawns and planted ornamental trees, a tower, various landscaped features, besides the mangrove area which has boardwalks and educational sign boards to describe the biology of mangrove organisms. "

I was there yesterday for thanksgiving with my church cell group members. When we was finding a good spot to settle down, someone exclaimed that there is a monitor lizard inside a drain. And I went to take a look. Indeed I saw this lower half of the monitor lizard.

And after a while, it crawled inwards. It's intriuging to imagine monitor lizards in our drains.

Apparently, there are also a number of beautiful caterpillars feasting on leaves.

Closeup on the caterpillars.

What is interesting about Pasir Ris Park is that they incoporated strips of mangroves within the park by the riversides. This is encouraging to see development coexisting with nature.

According to A guide to the mangroves of Singapore by Peter K L Ng and N Sivasothi, "A 5-hectare patch of mature mangrove forest was preserved during reclamation and development by maintaining tidal inundation—rivulet was dug to connect the patch with Sungei Tampines. An additional one hectare of levelled vacant ground was also subjected to the inundation in 1989."

Breathing secondary roots of the mangrove trees during high tide.

Walking down to the shore, there are also a good number of mangrove plants facing the sea. Mind you, these mangrove plants are not supposed to be there in the past as Pasir Ris is a reclaimed beach. Instead, the seedlings from the upstream rivers of mangroves by the bank were carried to the shore where they started to grow. Perhaps this part of the shore is more sheltered since it is beside the river mouth, thus mangrove plants can thrive.

Landscape view of the mangrove plants at the river mouth of Sungei Tampines.

Pasir Ris also boasts of a great view of Ubin and Johor. Hope to visit the shore during low tide in the near future.

To the left is Pulau Ubin where Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu is, to the right is a mountain in Pengarang, Johor.

How can you get there?
10 minute walk from Pasir Ris MRT station. Service 354 to Pasir Ris Close, and Service 403 to Elias and Pasir Ris Road. Carparks are available at the entrance of the park

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Current state of Labrador Park

Tanjong Rimau, Sentosa is one of the last remaining natural shores that can be publicly accessed and Naked Hermit Crabs also do guided walks to share its beauty with others.

Ironically and sadly, though Labrador is one of the lucky four nature reserve and should of course garner more care, its intertidal shore is surrounded with a lot of negative impacts.

The works done off the coast are extensive and large in scale.

These ships hug the coast of Labrador shore in numbers.

I believe all of us who are updated in blog entries would have know about the issues raised regarding the seacil project and also the cofferdam and their respective thrash left behind. Red dot blog also shows much of these impacts and also shared that the cofferdam has recently been in the process of being taken down. Therefore, I decided to check Labrador shore out myself to see if all these impacts are true before my own eyes.

Walking down the shore, there were still good growths of spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis).

But very soon, much of the thrash began to cover the landscape.

See it yourself.

The waters are really dirty and the whole place near the cofferdam is badly littered.

More litters at the cofferdam area.

There is this patch just at where the cofferdam used to be and the whole surrounding is like a coral graveyard. I'm saddened to see it.

The coastal cliff of Labrador Park shows history of bad landslides.

And it seems that the fallen logs were cut and left on the shore.

Another unusual phenonmenon will be these thick masses of sargassum seaweed attached on to a rock-like thing which can be concrete or dead coral. This is not the only one, they were many more of such. Was the seabed disturbed which led to these being floated to the intertidal area?

All the above photos shows my own observation of the stresses the marine environment has to tolerate against. I also tried to find as much of life in Labrador as possible which can be found below.

For all of my blogposts regarding nature, I have the luxury to select the bests of creatures to feature in the blog. However, I cannot find much life from this particular trip, so below are almost all of the marine organisms I managed to see.

Other than the mermaid's fan (Padina sp.), I managed to also find coin seaweed (Halimeda tuna).

For unknown reason, what used to be very common in Labrador I only found once for this trip. This sea grape seaweed (Caulerpa lentillifera) looks like a bunch of grapes but I only saw very little of these seaweed.

These are the few sponges that managed to survive the highly sedimented waters. I recall the Labrador waters wasn't so murked up as like for this trip.

This is a heartening sight of brittlestars still living in the crevices and holes of this sponge.

There were still mats of zoathids found littered on the grounds and rocks.

This species of zoathids looks more anemone-like.

Another type of zoathids that live in a colony on this boulder.

Also found are orange nerites, sea squirt, and two shy crabs that hid from my camera flash.

Colonial tunicate looks like slimy mud on rocks.

There were also a couple of this shorebird feeding on fishes which I have no idea of its id.

Usually these shells are found with hermit crabs, but this one is still alive.

I'm glad to still find mudskippers at the muddy parts of the shore.

This Branched-tentacle sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) has retracted as it was exposed to air during the low tide period.

This is the most "special" find of the day for me. Quite weird for a special find, but I couldn't find anything more special in my opinion. This is a wandering cowrie that has a pretty shell. Unfortunately, they tend to be overcollected.

For a moment, it was good to still see the spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and the sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) together.

The placement of the seacil equipment however disturbed them.

I couldn't see any thing growing on these equipments. Surrounding them are pieces of stuffs including again a bunch of sargassum seaweed attached to a fragmented piece of rock.

Searching hard at the seagrass patches, I was glad to find this small piece of soft coral.

And this small boulder of hard coral (Porites sp.), which was one of the 3 small corals I've found at the vicinity for the whole trip which might reveal that corals are probably getting fewer.

But, if we give the marine environment a chance to recover by removing away the negative stresses, I believe the shore of Labrador park will recover and thrive like before. Chek Jawa is recovering well from the mass death as National Parks Board is doing a great job by ensuring no one can go down the shore except for authorized purposes and that no boat can enter the vicinity waters off Chek Jawa. Does that mean we have to lock up Labrador shore too to save it?

We as Singaporeans are stakeholders of these nature areas. As what Prof Peter Ng said in his Natural Heritage of Singapore lecture in NUS, why will we want to conserve for something we have no access to? But the issue is can we then take good care of it if we have the access to enjoy it?

Personally I have nothing against the seacil project for the objective is supposed to improve the marine life of the shores and the waters off Labrador which has good intentions. However, what made me felt uncomfortable is that they ignored our queries, for example, of the equipments that were left not taken care of on the shore.

Yes we as non-divers only can give comments on the intertidal area and from a limited point of view. And thus, all the more we should get a clearer picture of what is happening from the seacil project personnels. I hope that they will one day clear up doubts. Same too for the unexplained tons of rubbish near the cofferdam.

In all, can we Singaporeans also give our very own last rocky shore a chance to survive?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Changi is a mini-Chek Jawa

Along with this last series of low tides for 2007, we visited Changi Beach once again. As mentioned in my Chek Jawa project blog, the northern shores are interconnected and each of them has an important role to play in the larger ecosystem of the surrounding waters. Though Changi is a much narrower stretch of intertidal zone, we can indeed proclaim that Changi is like Chek Jawa in terms of species.

On the high shore, Chay Hoon pointed to us this sea moth or sea robin (Pegasus volitans) that I've not seen before.

An old malay couple of grandpa and grandma casted a net and caught some marine organisms for their grandchildren to see. One of which is this blue-spotted stingray (Dasyatis kuhli).

and a couple of solefishes.

Chay Hoon found this very tiny Pygmy squid too.

Just like the sandbar of Chek Jawa, sand dollars also dwell and bury themselves under the sandflat of Changi. Sand dollars have tiny spines that cover their entire body.

Another marine creature that can be found in the proximity of Changi's sandflat will be this pair of moon snails that are getting intimate.

Sea cucumbers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and I have no idea what species is this.

Like Chek Jawa and recently Pulau Sekudu, Changi begins to house these mussel beds. The mussels (Musculista senhousia) produces byssus threads that trap sediments and eventually form these mussel beds. They tend to be covered with seaweed.

Brittlestars crawl about the seagrass and seaweed flats, similar to those in Chek Jawa.

What was special that evening were the enormous number of juvenile sandstars (Astropecten sp.). These sand stars are very common in Chek Jawa as well.

That day was also the first time I encountered the pencil sea urchins. It made me quite excited. Most of these sea urchins graze on algae. What is amazing about the pencil sea urchins is that they have spines on its spines. Can we call them secondary spines just like secondary roots? Haha.

These are the four carpet anemones I've encountered. Chek Jawa is known to have a lot of these charismatic carpet anemones, and I believe Changi also. However, poachers ensured that they are continuously being removed from the shores, constantly disrupting the ecosystem balances.

On a rock structure, there is a tiny patch of hard coral.

And also good growths of sponges. Too bad there were no nudibranches around, since they feed on sponges.

While looking around, I saw this bump on the sandflat.

I went to check it out and woah, the solefish was revealed. Apparently, its bumpy-dinner gave its disguise away.

Chay Hoon again spotted this tiny and very cute juvenile seastar. Compare its size with the fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa). We believe it is probably a biscuit sea star (Goniodiscaster scabra).

Just like the seagrass beds of Chek Jawa, there were a lot of these thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis). Wonder whether are they seasonal as I don't remember finding any during mid 2007. Perhaps they were also recovering from the early 2007 flooding or heavy rain that lowered the salinities of the seas. This sea cucumber in particular has its feeding tentacles extended out to gather suspended detritus by waving their tentacles.

I am very excited again to spot something new to me. This pebble crab (Leucosia vittata) can also be found, but seldomly, in Chek Jawa according to Ria's Chek Jawa Guidebook.

The sea pencil (Cavernularia sp.) are actually related to cnidarians like corals, anemones and jellyfishes. It is a colony of many animals.

There were two hermit crabs attached to each other, and we have no idea what they were trying to do.

Chay Hoon spotted this small transparent-like anemone attached to the sandflat.

Other wonders found include the numerous white sea urchins (Salmacis sp.) scattered all over. I accidentally stepped on some while wading in murky waters. Their sizes are bigger than those I usually sea. Also found, this time by Justin, is the spongy looking sea squirt and also the elbow crab. Moon crabs are common residents of Changi beach, but weird to say, saw only one that night.

Who says you only can find large populations of these button shells (Umbonium vestiarum) in Chek Jawa? Changi has them too! But please do not collect them home. They are alive, and even dead ones can be used by hermit crabs as home.

I believe almost all of the above marine creatures found in Changi can be found in Ria's Chek Jawa guidebook. Changi never fails to surprise! If you don't believe, check out Ron's blog post on his Changi visit the next day of our trip. He found many different rare seastars that made me all envy and jealous. :-)

Indeed Changi is so like Chek Jawa, we cannot dismiss such an amazing shore as one that has little or no natural heritage.

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