Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To see Labrador for myself

I was at Labrador Nature Reserve with a group of friend yesterday afternoon to explore the shore during low tide.

Despite being an avid shore lover, I have not visited Labrador shore during a good low tide to take a look at the marine life there. My last two visits during 2006 (for a project) and 2007 (to check out the sad state of the shore) were during not so low tides.

This is a great view of Labrador from the top. The beginning of the jetty is where the shore lies.

Why did I named this blog post "To see Labrador for myself"? This is because of several impacts that were and are happening around the waters of Labrador like massive reclamation that will be till August 2009, post of the languishing state of Labrador shore, and the various reports of the effects of cofferdam and marine trashes on the shore.

Personally I feel that it is quite ironical that it seems the shore of only of the four nature reserves in Singapore is in a worse state as compared to many other unprotected shores.

We perhaps have this mentality that to believe something, you must see it for yourself. Thus, the objective of the trip is to look at the current state of Labrador shore for myself.

Joining me are Daniel (left) who is a Canadian exchange student, Nicholas (right) and Yikang. Yikang had his antique camera with him and he took several great shots that are black and white. Can't wait to see his photos.

Unfortunately, he told me after the trips that among the shores he visited, Labrador is the least he like because of the different pollutions like noise, smoke etc.

We arrived on the rocky shore a little earlier and explored the high shores first. One of the first few sightings include this beige flatworm.

Daniel shares with me his find of this ribbon worm (Phylum Nemertea) that was crawling across the rock wall.

You will surprised to see lots of life underneath rocks like this eerie mass of bristleworms (Class Polychaeta). Do remember to flip back the rock to its original position, otherwise the animals will die of drying out.

Another creature found beneath rocks will be this elegant looking wandering cowrie (Cypraea errones).

And also this tiny pretty orange snail that I have no idea what it is.

Soon, a bunch of girls came down to the shore where the seagrasses are. I suspect they are the RGS Labrador angels.

I approached closer and say hello to them with Andy who just joined me also. And yes, they are doing transects to study the seagrasses at Labrador park.

Andy, the girls and I noticed that the seagrasses looked a bit different today.

There was a layer of coating on the leaves and I suspect it could be due to the scorching sun, as I experienced blackening of seagrasses at Changi too. When the tide went lower, indeed the seagrasses at the lower zonation are much less affected which sort of supported my hypothesis.

The team explained that they have not seen such a phenomenon before.

The tide continued to recede and revealed several sad coral skeletons.

There was this Porites coral that was uprooted. It was partially alive at the bottom with the top layer covered by a layer of sediment and silt.

There was another Porites coral that is bleaching.

Even the coin seaweed (Halimeda tuna) is covered by sedimentation.

I walked around the intertidal area and found it in overall to be rather sad in terms of abundance and diversity of animals. It is a rather far cry as compared to the nearby Sentosa shore.

Life is resilient and I found some signs of "struggle to keep alive" spirit in this tiny Porites coral colony and the zoanthids.

Despite the heavy sedimentation and turbidity in the waters, there were still signs that Labrador may recover to its former glory if left undisturbed. I was glad to see some good growth of sponges. However, they were not abundant.

I found this lone patch of the Rubber mat zoanthids (Palythoa tuberculosa)...

while the Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.) were more commonly found on the rocky shore.

I was surprised to find a coral colony that is not boulder-like but is branching.

A closer look suggests that this could be the Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).

There were a few boulder like corals like this faviid coral. Most living corals were found at the much lower zone of the shore. However, the abundance of corals on Labrador is much lesser than Sentosa. I hope these these surviving corals will be able to live on.

There were also several interesting reef associates that we have encountered.

Other than the swimming crabs that run away quickly most of the time, photographing this cute hairy crab (Family Pilumnidae) is not as challenging. I like their two red eyes against the camouflaging hairy body.

It was heartening to be able to sight this juvenile copperbanded butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) that has a false eye to distract predators.

Soon, Andy called me over to take a look at what he just found.

Wow! That's a special find of the charismatic spider conch (Lambis lambis). It seems to be a young adult to as the spines have yet grown out. Also the underside of the shell has more prominent patterns that tend to fade as the conch grows.

Andy video-ed a footage of how the conch uprights itself so watch out for that on his SG Beachbum blog.

And in no time, Andy found yet ANOTHER adult spider conch. The spider conch is usually well camouflaged with the coral rubble, so we are fortunate that Andy's keen eyes still managed to find not only one but two spider conchs.

This spider conch looks like it has sponges or ascidians on its upper shell. Seems like the upper surface is a good substrate for animals to grow, like the spider conch with coral on it found in Semakau.

Overturning the seemingly unattractive conch from the top, the underside reveals a more colourful shell with the animal within. This conch has the characteristic spines that help it to upright itself. Also worth a note will be the faded patterns as compared to the previous conch.

We proceeded on to take a look at where the cofferdam used to be and see if there is any life. Despite the rocks and surrounding looking rather boring, there was yet another special find.

We were rather stunned to find a synaptic sea cucumber (Family Synaptidae) on the rocky substrates. They are usually found at seagrass meadows or sandy substrates.

There was even another synaptic sea cucumber around the same area, this one more brown and orange in colour.

Just before we left the shore, Hang Chong, whom we met on the shores, found this Brown striped flatworm (Pseudobiceros gratus). My first sighting of this flatworm was just only the day before this Labrador trip and now again was seen. How coincidental.

Though it is heartening that life can still be found on Labrador shore, I wondered how resilient can the ecosystem be while being faced with several impacts. Will its health dwindle on or will it rebound? Nobody knows. All we know is that Labrador is obviously not thriving as well as in the past two or three years. I want to visit and see it now before it might become worse. Just in case Murphy's law work.

The natural shoreline of Labrador, though tiny and narrow, yet is still highly utilized for different purposes like recreation, education, research...

and even a wedding couple were taking photographs on the rocky shore despite the possibility of the beautiful gown being dirtied by the rocks. Wild places, though charming, are few in Singapore and we hope that the remaining wild locations be left alone for Singaporeans to visit and appreciate its beauty and tranquility.

I certainty hope that the last remaining mainland living rocky shore will be there for many generations to come for our fellow Singaporeans to enjoy.


Ria Tan said...

Wow! Glad to see some life on Labrador. Although still a shadow of its former glory. Still, I'm sure with time, it will recover.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip of yours.

budak said...

wah, still got so many surprises!

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