Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tanah Merah- Still the best mainland coral garden!

Can you imagine that a reclaimed shore is probably the best place in mainland Singapore to find a garden full of corals?

This place is none other than just in front of Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Yes, it is the terminal where people will depart to or arrive from Bintan and other places. Having explored so many shores of mainland Singapore over the years, I have not found another place that has a better growth of corals.

We have been visiting this coral reef since 2009. In 2010, the regional coral bleaching and oil spill impacted the corals where I witnessed many bleaching corals on the reef. How is this reef doing now after a year? Has it recovered?

The day did not start off well as there were heavy rain and gusty winds from 5.45am onwards. But there was no time to waste. James Choi, my good friend, and I decided to go ahead and check out this shore when the rain lightened. It was definitely not easy negotiating our way down as the seawall was suicidal and extremely slippery. The rocks on the shore were shaky and hard to walk on.

Here is a look at the shore with corals exposed to the rain. Corals are marine organisms that have low tolerance for freshwater. The intertidal species probably have higher tolerance but a rain event is definitely one factor that will stress corals out.

Together with other factors such as high temperature, pollution etc, coral bleaching can take place. Today I saw some bleaching corals. The corals that were most affected were the Acropora corals (Acropora sp.). Some of the top parts of the boulder Favid hard corals (Family Faviidae) were also bleaching. But otherwise, about 85% or so of the corals were not bleached and that is good news!

The corals here are huge and at many parts tightly packed side by side with each other!

Here is a good assortment of hard corals of various shapes, types and colours that we saw this morning.

On this photo, there is a blue Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae), a green Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) and an unknown one on the right to the disk coral. I did not know there was an Eight-banded butterflyfish (Chaetodon octofasciatus) swimming to the left of the disk coral!

This is a closer look at the unidentified hard coral. It has both brown and bright green pigments!

There are many large growths of corals in various shapes that look rather bizarre to me. Such as this colony!

Looking at its details, it does look similar to the uncommon Bracket mushroom hard coral.

A new sighting on this shore will be the Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi). It was real tough taking photos with choppy waves, rain and wind.

Later during the trip, I found several other juvenile growths of the Cabbage corals. They were out of the water and thus you can see their coral skeletons.

On some of the unbleached Acropora corals, you can find occupants among the coral branches. This is called the Machine gun shrimp (Coralliocaris graminea).

Like the snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae), the pincer of the Machine gun shrimp has an enlarged tooth and a special catch. When the catch is released, the tooth makes a loud snapping sound. Unlike the snapping shrimp which only has one such 'snapping' pincer, the Machine gun shrimp has two such pincers, hence its common name.

I saw this maroon coloured crab again today, and I am not too sure of its indentity. It sure looks like a thunder crab!

Below are more photos of corals and landscape photos of corals and background. I will add some captions along the way. :)

Four colonies of corals living side by side! Squeezy yeah! Below are more corals packed beside one another.

Is the greenish coral colony a Trumpet coral (Caulastrea sp.) or a Brain corals (Family Mussidae)? The one on the right is a Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae).

Left to right: Brain coral (Family Mussidae) and Favid hard corals (Family Faviidae).

Left to right: Small o-ring favid coral and Boulder pore coral (Porites sp.).

Left to right: Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) and Favid hard corals (Family Faviidae).

Left to right: Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae) and Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.).

Left to right: Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae) and Bracket mushroom hard coral.

This is probably a Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.).

This photo shows a highly folded Bracket mushroom hard coral and a roundish Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).

Left to right: Greenish Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) and a Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae).

In this photo is a green colony of Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) and a Circular mushroom coral.

I must say that this shore has really large growths of Lettuce corals (Pavona sp.) that can compete many of the colonies found in the intertidal zone of our southern reefs!

The water was rather murky today due to the rain and wind. Many seagrasses and mangrove propagules were swept up! I did not take a proper photo of them though.

More corals off the seawall in front of Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

Thick growths of corals off the seawall in front of Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Most are doing well and are unbleached.

Another source of crashing wave would be the ships that arrive at the Ferry terminal. This added to the challenge of looking at these pretty corals.


Overall, I am glad to see that many hard corals have survived the coral bleaching and oil spill last year. There were a few dying or dead corals though. Weirdly, I did not come across any of the resident Bulb-tentacled sea anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor). Did the bleaching ones I saw last year died along the way? :(

This shore is only exposed at extremely super low spring tides. As such, the next time I will be able to properly check out this shore and the corals will be next year! Meanwhile, let's hope that this reef will be able to continue recovery and remain undisturbed.

1 comment:

ria said...

AWESOME! Thank you for this survey! Only you, the Human Climbing Crab can do it!

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