Monday, June 7, 2010

NIE field trip to MacRitchie

MacRitchie Reservoir is Singapore's first impounding reservoir and it was built in 1867. It is part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), which is the biggest nature reserve in Singapore. The other reservoirs of CCNR include Lower Peirce Reservoir, Upper Peirce Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Serving as water catchment areas, forests surrounding these reservoirs are protected from agriculture activities so as to ensure the quality of water. The reservoir also has a park for recreational purposes and has facilities such as the pavilion and the zig zag bridge as shown here.

Why was I here at MacRitchie Reservoir? It was part of our NIE field trip for trainee Biology teachers. And with us sharing about the Reservoir and its fauna and flora is Dr Shawn Lum who is well versed with the forest and plants!

One of the things he shared with us is to differentiate the type of forest from the canopy height variation. Secondary forest, as seen here, usually has a rather even and uniform canopy height.

While that of the primary forest has more canopy height variation due to the different stages of succession going on for many years.

Along the zig-zag bridge, we notice a number of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).

Some of them look cute, especially the smaller ones.

When threatened, their display of teeth can be quite scary. It's puzzling why these monkeys now roam the reservoir park instead of inhabiting in their native forest grounds. This is probably due to the feeding of monkeys by humans in the park.

You are advised not to feed these monkeys because this will increase their dependancy on you for food rather than feed naturally in the forest. First, this will disrupt the ecological balance of the forest. Secondly, this will also "train" the monkeys to be more aggressive and they will chase after you to snatch food from you. Let us learn how to leave them alone to do what they do best- to be in the forest!

We saw a number of birds hanging around the fringes of the reservoir such as this Collared Kingfisher (Halcyon chloris). The collared kingfisher is the most common Kingfisher in Singapore. One reason for this could be the wide variety of prey that they take in.

Along the side of the reservoir, we had a pleasant find of many pitcher plants!

These are the Slender pitcher plants (Nepenthes gracilis). Pitcher plants are signs that the soil is lacking in nutrients. Therefore, these plants modify their leaves into pitchers to trap more food.

Please be aware that all plants including the pitcher plants in Singapore's Nature Reserves are protected. Thus, it is illegal to poach them.

Moving into the forested areas, Dr Shawn Lum shared with us many ways of engaging students with different types of activities that we can do with them to help them learn ecology and biology. And along the way, he introduced to us some plants such as this Ant plant (Macaranga bancana).

Why is it called an ant plant? It is because Heart-gaster ants (Crematogaster sp.) live in the hollow stem of the ant plant and feed on the fat-rich globules found within the dark red stipules. In this process, the ants also help protect the plant from herbivores.

Another plant that we came across will be this Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis). In India, an edible starch is extracted from the stem of this plant, and the palm heart eaten.

An interesting plant that we had a closer look at will be this Leaf litter plant (Agrostistachys longifolia).

Why is it called the Leaf litter plant? It is due to its interesting way to gather additional nutrients. It traps dead leaves between its own leaves and the dead leaves will in time decompose to become additional nutrients for the leaf litter plant.

How then does the leaf litter plant take in the nutrients from the decomposed material? It has roots near the base of the leaves that can help in the intake of these additional nutrients as shown in this photo. Amazing isn't it?

There were much more shared during the trip and feel free to look at more photos taken during that day in my flickr page:

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