May 20, 2007

Semakau (20 May 07)

TeamSeagrass is back in action for the super low tides of May. And it's time to check out Semakau again!A rather sleepy bunch arrived on the landfill jetty in the pink glow of first light. This portion of the Semakau Landfill where Siti is giving the Traditional Wake-Up Briefing, is the location of the former Pulau Saking. It overlooks industrial installations on Pulau Bukom (in the background).

The Semakau Landfill is of course, the place where ALL our rubbish ends up. It might thus seem surprising to find seagrasses nearby. And astonishing that this is probably Singapore's LARGEST seagrass meadow.

The landfill was created by building a very long seawall on top of Pulau Saking and over the eastern half of Pulau Semakau. The western half of Semakau is left in its original natural condition. The landfill was specially built and carefully operated so that this natural part of Semakau continues to thrive.
And here is the team, on the shore, ready to monitor those vast seagrass meadows!
Shawn and I did one transect together. At the Dreaded Transect 2, with squishy mud soft and treacherous and often knee deep in water. Both of us had a hard time with tiny seagrass features and reading off minute markings on the ruler. We declared thereafter that old people with bad eyesight shouldn't be paired with one another :-)

But Shawn and I had a great time finding ALL the species including the Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoestifolium) which he hasn't seen before! Oh, except Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), which were there but outside the transect area. Semakau is indeed a fabulous seagrass site!
The vast seagrass meadows are home to all kinds of animals. A perfect horseshoe crab moult was found next to Dickson's transect line. Helen found a juvenile batfish next to her transect line!
After the monitoring, we wandered around for a while before the tide came in. A sea snake was spotted! Busy foraging in the reef edge. Elsewhere, Budak and team saw a huge synaptid sea cucumber. And Dickson and his team saw lots of stuff too, all shared on his blue heaven blog.

I worked hard today as several people didn't turn up for the trip. So I didn't get to take many photos. And it got really hot as the day progressed. Whereupon, I meandered quickly over to the shady coastal forest.
On the way there, I disturbed hordes of sand bubbler crabs (Dotilla sp.) and Orange fiddler crabs (Uca vocans) on the vast sandy shore.
The shore is lined with mangrove trees. Pulau Semakau has lots of mature mangroves with some rare species. These on the shore are Api api trees (Rhizophora sp). These trees can live partially submerged in the sea and have special roots to stay upright in the soft mud.
Though the trees look similar, they are different. One way you can tell them apart is by their flowers. Rhizophora stylosa and Rhizophora mucronata have flowers on long stalks, while Rhizophora apiculata has chunky flowers stuck on the stem.
Mangrove trees also provide handy shade for tired and hot TeamSeagrassers!
All too soon, the tide turned and it was time to head back.

We not only monitored the shore, but also removed several fish and crab traps (Shawn is hauling one here in the photo). Budak had an encounter with the perpetrator of the many driftnets and traps we have been finding on this shore. He shares this encounter as well as other sad results of these wasteful fishing habits on the budak blog.

After a quick wash up, the team headed down to the southern most point of Semakau on the landfill. Here, we had a breathtaking view of the Southern islands under a blue blue sky. Some of the regulars (who had "been there, done that and bought the t-shirt") opted to remain on the air-con bus and proceeded to demolish a packet of peanuts.

On the way back, we drive along the huge lagoon created out of the landfill walls but which have yet to be filled up. Helen was just mentioning that we saw a shark the last time we were there when Andy yelled "Shark!". The bus was quickly stopped and everyone rushed out to have a closer look.Kevin took a shot of the shark! It was a Black tipped reef shark Have a look at his nature spies blog for the photo. It was indeed a Shark Frenzy. With the humans being in a frenzy for a change.

Pulau Semakau is indeed a strange paradox of landfill and natural beauty. The landfill is good for another 40 years. If we reduce, reuse and recycle, the landfill may last longer. Thus sparing the surrounding spectacular natural shores from further development. Each one of us CAN make a difference for Semakau!

Thank you to all the TeamSeagrasses who turned up today: Andy, Dickson, Gaytri, Helen, Jing Kai, Kevin, Marcus, Robin, Shawn, Siti Nurbaya, Tze Chien, Wilson, Yvonne, Ci Pei, Su Pang, Violet and Muratti.

For more about this island: there was recently an article about Pulau Semakau: Pulau Semakau: Island paradise . . . and landfill By Matthew Phan Business Times 11 May 07. Jeffrey Low also commented on this article on his blog with lots of information about this special island.


Jeffrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey said...

I have deleted my previous comment on "another silly article calling Semakau a man-made island", because of the confusion it caused - I was referring to the newspaper reporter who called Pulau Semakau a "man-made island", not to the blog. Apologies for my silliness!