Nov 30, 2006

Scientists: Seagrass Ecosystems at a 'Global Crisis'

Scientists: Seagrass Ecosystems at a 'Global Crisis';
Elevating Public Awareness 'Critical' News Service 1 Dec 06

full article on wildsingapore

Extracts ...

Among its findings, the study analyzed an apparent disconnect between the scientific community’s concerns over seagrass habitat and its coverage in the popular media.

While recent studies rank seagrass as one of the most valuable habitat in coastal systems, media coverage of other habitats – including salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs – receive 3 to 100-fold more media attention than seagrass systems.

"Elevating public awareness about this impending crisis is critical to averting it."

"This report is a call to the world’s coastal managers that we need to do more to protect seagrass habitat"

Referring to "A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems" by Dr. William Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Dr. Robert Orth of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Dr. Tim Carruthers of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, published in the December issue of Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)

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Nov 23, 2006

Semakau (22 Nov 06)

An amphibious landing on Semakau was achieved by the intrepid TeamSeagrass! With a very obliging boatman at the helm, we managed to get off onto the seagrass meadows without having to swim. In the desultory drizzle, the vast meadows of Semakau was quite romantic.Shufen brought walkie-talkies! Siti is delighted. The rest of us are regaled by details of seagrasses and measurements as the walkie talks echo across the flats.

The Team works relentlessly. Examining everything closely, against the light and on the ground.

Seagrasses are important nurseries for sea creatures.
Mama Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis) is a large snail with a handsome orange-spotted body. She has just laid an egg case (see the lumpy thing on the right?).

Teeny tiny fishies swarm in the meadows. Almost too tiny to see now, they might grow up to be delicious seafood.
There were succulent egg cases too, possibly of octopus.

Giant sea anemones nestle among the seagrasses (the large furry-looking thing on the upper right). Mushroom corals are also plentiful (the little pom pom on the lower left). These corals with fat white-tipped tentacles are often mistaken for anemones. Their long tentacles obscure the hard sekeleton. Little shrimps are sometimes found among the tentacles.
Semakau has magnificent reefs too. Despite the proximity of gigantic petrochemical plants, and our landfill, Semakau's reefs are very much alive.
Semakau's vast reefs have a dazzling variety of hard corals.
Corals are animals. To be specific, they are colonies of tiny animals called polyps. Each polyp produces a hard cup to live in, and the joined up skeletons of countless polyps create massive reefs! If you take a closer look, you can see the tiny animals in a hard coral. They have tentacles like sea anemones. It's amazing that such small delicate animals create the bewildering variety of designs and shapes of hard corals.Large soft corals are also abundant on the shores. These are colonial animals too, but instead of a hard skeleton, they share a leathery common tissue. Some look like fried eggs, others like discarded surgical gloves.
Of course there were lots of seagrasses. Long Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) dominates the shores, spreading out for kilometres. Amongst them, tiny Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), skinny Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.), flat Ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata) and the tubular Syringodium which is not seen elsewhere.

Later when we got back together, Colin showed us a photo of a small but very fleshy Giant is so cute!
Rain or shine, we go when it's low!
And TeamSeagrass always has a good time on the shore.

Next trip is in mid-December. Details will be posted to those on the TeamSeagrass mailing list.

To join TeamSeagrass see this blog's FAQs.

Nov 9, 2006

Chek Jawa (8 Nov 06)

Teamseagrass was back in booties on the shore to check out Chek Jawa on Wednesday, 8 Nov 06.
Robert and Jackie of Ubin NParks accompanied us to this humungous seagrass meadow.

We measured up a possible plot in the middle of the lagoon to include the largest patch of Ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) that we've yet seen on our shores.

Another possible plot, nearer the low water mark. The 50m tape sure looks puny and short on this huge shore!
Teamseagrass was particularly facinated by the very large and very healthy Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) found on Chek Jawa. These large leaves are the perfect place for small animals to lay their eggs, like the yellow coil in the photo. Of course, there were lots of other seagrasses too. Including the thin and narrow Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) and the pretty Fern seagrass (Halophila spinolusa).

Siti remarked that the Fern seagrasses look somewhat chewed on and missing leaflets, leaving only bare stems. Indeed, something important to monitor during seagrass watch.

Chek Jawa is Echinoderm Heaven. Sand dollars and sea stars abound. For the first time in the longest while, I came across the yellow-and-pink Warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps). This is quite different from the more commonly encountered Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis).

No visit to Chek Jawa is complete without a good gawk at the hundreds of Button snails (Umbonium vestiarum) that lie buried just beneath the sand surface. Incredibly, many square metres of the Northern sand bar are pock-marked with these tiny snails. Each in delicate pastel patterns, no two are alike!

Chek Jawa will indeed be a fascinating and important area to include in our seagrass watch monitoring programme.

Siti's note: Chek Jawa is one of the most extensive intertidal seagrass meadows we have in Singapore (the other being the one at Pulau Semakau). The meadow is composed of a different suite of seagrass species, which implies that the dynamics and processes of the Chek Jawa seagrass meadow are subtly different. We're really pleased that Ubin NParks has agreed to let us have Chek Jawa on our list of monitoring areas. No doubt regular monitoring will help us understand the distribution and dynamics of seagrass beds in Singapore better.

Merawang Beacon, Tuas (6 Nov 06)

Teamseagrass did a quick recce of this narrow but splendid shore on Monday, 6 Nov 06.

We were met by Anthony, Helen and Sheryl, staff of Schering Plough, the company whose property fronts this shore. Schering Plough has adopted the shore and are already working with CHIJ students on a shore project. They kindly provided access through their grounds to the shore.

In answer to Siti's wish, there were indeed steps down the seawall to the shore!! We are most impressed.

Because of sensitive equipment being used at the company, we couldn't use our handphones.

So walkie talkies were kindly provided to us.

Which was a great thrill for Siti to use, no doubt to the amusement of everyone else on Channel One.

"Seagrass Here!!" Siti announces. And indeed, there's plenty of seagrasses on the shore.

There's lots of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis). And even a small clump of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).

We meandered our way out to Merawang Beacon where the best of this relatively untouched shores is found.
A soft coral garden blossoms there! These colourful plant-like lifeforms are actually animals.

The ground is alive and thick with all manner of creatures.

Along the way, we spot large carpet anemones. Small hard corals are also settling there.

It seems to be the season for sea hares. They were everywhere. These large slugs squirt out a purple dye when they are annoyed.

The rarely seen Tiger moonsnail is quite common on this shore.
A large Melogena snail was also seen laying her typical eggcases.

But for me, the most incredible find were these tiny Clithon snails. I have not seen them yet on any other shore. These delicate snails come in a mind-boggling array of intricate designs. Each looks like it was decorated patiently with a fine black marker pen!

We'll certainly want to include this fabulous shore for seagrass watch!