Jun 30, 2009

Seagrass-Watch Issue 37 June 2009 now out!

Len McKenzie has just announced the latest issue of Seagrass-Watch news!
He says: "In this issue two of the worlds leading scientists on seagrass physiology (Mats Bj√∂rk and Sven Beer) debate the affects of ocean acidification and the role seagrass could play in mitigating the effects. Let’s hope that our high-productivity meadows may be looked upon as areas that are safe from ocean acidification, further highlighting the need for their protection from decline."

Yes, indeed. Our work on our seagrasses can have a broader impact in better understanding and protecting seagrasses everywhere!

And TeamSeagrass is in the news too! There's a great article with lots of sneaky photos of us at the recent Seagrass Workshop in May.
And our Seagrass Angels at Labrador are also in the news!
There's a feature of their study of seagrass growth at Labrador!
(Click on image for a larger view)

There are lots of other articles about seagrass monitoring all over the world. With lovely photos of the seagrasses and amazing animals found there. Like this one taken in Bali by Rudi!
There is also a feature on the estuarine crocodiles with advice on how to be croc wise. I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad that we in Singapore don't have too much to worry about regarding estuarine crocodiles. Sigh.

Well, some of the "croc wise" tips still do apply to us. Like "Never swim or stand in water above knee-height".

So do go to the Seagrass-Watch website and download the PDF of the latest newsletter! Refresh your screen if you don't see the icon for the latest issue.

Destruction of seagrass on a par with loss of rainforests and coral reefs

While the world has focused on the destruction mankind has brought to coral reefs, the massive loss of an equally important ecosystem has been widely ignored.

Now the first comprehensive assessment of the state of seagrass meadows around the world has revealed the damage that human activities have wrought on these economically and biologically essential areas.
Seagrass meadows on Cyrene Reef facing our container terminal.

A synthesis of quantitative data from 215 sites suggests that the world has lost more than a quarter of its meadows in the past 130 years, since records began, and that the rate of that decline has grown from less than 1% per year before 1940 to 7% per year since 1990.

"Seagrass loss rates are comparable to those reported for mangroves, coral reefs and tropical rainforests, and place seagrass meadows among the most threatened ecosystems on earth," write the authors of the synthesis, which is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1. "Our report of mounting seagrass losses reveals a major global environmental crisis in coastal ecosystems, for which seagrasses are sentinels of change."

As well as supporting unique wildlife such as green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and dugong (Dugong dugon), seagrass meadows also serve as a vital nursery for fish, supporting populations for coral reefs and commercial fisheries. They also serve to stabilize sediment and provide coastal protection, as well as trapping carbon and helping in nutrient transportation.

Some fishes in the seagrass meadows of Cyrene Reef, being tagged by Collin.

Study author Frederick Short, a researcher at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, admits that there is "not that much data" available on seagrass, so the total loss is difficult to pin down exactly.

[Thus efforts such as TeamSeagrass will contribute towards closing the data gaps.}

The vast majority of this decline, say Short and other experts, is attributable to human activity. Nutrient and sediment pollution from nearby human activities and the introduction of invasive species are both contributing to their decline.

Giuseppe DiCarlo, marine climate change manager at Conservation International and a member of the steering committee of the World Seagrass Association, told Nature News that even where seagrass meadows have been lost there is the opportunity for recovery if protection via the designation of Marine Protected Areas can be brought in.

Full media articles on this study on the wildsingapore news blog.

Jun 26, 2009

Chek Jawa (27 Jun 09)

Bright and early this morning, we're back on Chek Jawa to see how things are growing there.
Chek Jawa sure looks nice in what promises to be a scorching day. The mangroves that ring the seagrass meadows are glowing in the morning sun.
The boardwalk has lots of interpretive panels including one about the seagrass meadows.
The panel is located near what is probably our best growth of Smooth ribbon seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata). And today, they seem to have grown over a larger area.
They sure look well, even looking down from the tall boardwalk.
The Team makes its way to the shore via the pontoon which reaches out into the seagrass meadows.
And we've got our spiffy "Seagrass Monitoring in Progress" banner up to tell visitors what we're doing and how they too can join us to make a difference for our shores!
Down a ladder and we're off to monitor. Here's the team starting on their trek to the far off site on the Northern sand bar.While here's the team doing the site nearer the boardwalk.
While they are busy monitoring, I take the opportunity to check out the coral rubble area near the Chek Jawa beacon. Wow, it sure is very grassy!
With lots of Fern seagrasses (Halophilia spinulosa), Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) and Spoon seagrasses (Halodule ovalis).
The seagrasses are thick all the way from the sand bar near the beacon to the high shore near the boardwalk.
The pools were full of seagrasses!
In some parts though, the Fern seagrasses seem to have lost their leaflets, leaving just the stems.
And along the sandbar, I came across one lonely clump of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).
Also on the sand bar, in the thick carpet of grass was an odd wiggly bare patch. Could it be a dugong feeding trail?
I saw lots of other marine life on the coral rubble area. More about this on the wild shores of singapore blog.

I caught up with the Team as they were washing up the gear. It's important to do this, even though we are all feeling very hot and tired by now.
And the Singapore Poly Water Quality team is busy catching up on their water samples.
As we waited to go home, it started to drizzle. And it poured by the time we were heading back on the bumboats! How fortunate that we managed to get our work done before the weather turned.

The team today included: Kenerf, Charmaine, Joo Yong, Yen-ling, Sam Lai, Jason, Chay Hoon, Cornie, Liu Jia, Chi Keung, Lee Qi, Siti, Wei Ling, Robin and Ria. And from Singapore Poly, Chen Ko, nUaN qIn, Joycelyn, Suzanna.

More about the Water Quality Team's experience of Chek Jawa on Checking out Chek Jawa by Chen Ko on his Water Quality in Singapore blog.

Jun 25, 2009

Tuas Monitoring 25 Jun 09

This is the 2nd monitoring session in Tuas this year. Today the tide was really really really good and we could see many many many marine creatures. Thanks to Helen who was busy snapping away so that I could have enough photos to post on the web =).

As usual for the tuas site, we usually have a short recap of the monitoring technique to be used before we start the monitoring. We were at first so worried about the weather as it was pouring yesterday but today it was fine!

I must say the seagrass growing near the fenceline were really big and fat and that is a good sign as it shows that the marine ecosystem is doing pretty well in the Tuas area. After 30 mins of monitoring, we started our marine creature treasure hunt!

Among our treasure finds are the anemone shrimp, 3 cute sting rays, a few flat fishes, a beautiful anemone and a seahorse! Surprisingly, it is the first time i saw such a big seahorse on our coastline. The 3 sting rays were also very playful as they keep circling around us as we stood there to observe them.
Despite the short walk that we had, we had such great and interesting findings considering that it is also in broad daylight. My colleagues truly enjoy the walk so much and they are already looking forward to the next monitoring already!

Jun 10, 2009

Sentosa (10 Jun 09)

At the crack of dawn, TeamSeagrass is out on Sentosa to monitor the seagrasses there. We have lots of first timers today. Fortunately, Sentosa is less difficult to monitor and also, there were regulars to help introduce the methods to the new team members.
After a quick briefing by Wei Ling and Siti, the Team is off to do the random sampling method (because the shore is narrow). This means no laying out of the tape and thus it's much faster to do.
This last stretch of natural shores on Sentosa has lots of long Tape seagrasses (Enhalus acoroides), which I again tried to take underwater photos of.
And carpets of little Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis).
These two kinds of seagrasses are easy to tell apart so Sentosa is not too difficult to monitor. Although the bewildering variety of seaweeds sometimes can be confusing.

Joining us today also is the Water Quality team from Singapore Poly.
Among the seagrasses, I came across a humungous crab! It must have had a body width of 15cm.
It looks like a Mud crab (Scylla sp.). Here's a closer look at it with my little underwater camera.
Other crabs include this vividly patterned Mosaic reef crab (Lophozozymus pictor).It is the most poisonous crab of Singapore! There are several documented deaths caused by eating this crab. Cooking does not destroy the toxins. Despite this natural protection, the crab is listed as 'Endangered' on our Red List due to habitat loss. So it's important to preserve shores like Sentosa so that these intriguing animals can continue to thrive.

After the monitoring, the Team headed off to explore the living reefs on this shore.
Meanwhile, as some of us rested on the high shore, some monkeys clambered down the forest that cloaked the natural cliffs.
Quickly, Siti rescues a bag left behind on the shore before the monkeys could raid it.
(The monkey is sitting on the fallen tree at the upper right corner of the photo).

After some amusing encounters with us, and a monitor lizard, the monkeys scampered off into the water for a swim!
Ivan took a video of the entire event!
Wow, this is my first time seeing this behaviour. Of course, I should not have been surprised. These Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are also called Crab-eating macaques. These animals are native to Singapore and their original habitat was mangroves!

More about the monkey encounter on the wild shores of singapore blog and Vanitha's peripheral vision with video clips of the monkeys and other wildlife encounters at Sentosa.

On the Team today were: Vanitha, Lee Qi, Yen-ling, Jason, Richard, Ivan, Siti, Wei Ling, Collin and Ria.

More about Sentosa's natural shores and the latest blog entries about Sentosa.

Jun 6, 2009

Jane Goodall Institute Singapore - Youth Symposium

Hello seagrassers! Apologies for the belated post :)

A group of us - Cheng Puay (a.k.a Mr. Lim), Jocelyne and myself - were invited to run a workshop as part of a Youth Symposium organised by the Jane Goodall Institute, RGS and Singapore American School entitled 'A Vision for Hope'. The symposium was a one day event held at the Singapore American School on June 6th.

We ran a very condensed workshop on seagrass and the Seagrass-Watch Monitoring method. And we even ran a simulated monitoring session in the school field (with terrestrial grass, which is not as fun of course) and we got rave reviews for our session.

AND We got to meet Dr. Jane! Nuff said...

More info and photos from the symposium can be found at: JGIS Youth Symposium

TeamSeagrass at Youth Eco-Fiesta 2009

The Team is back out to share about our seagrasses and shores at Youth Eco-Fiesta 2009. Held in the heartlands of Tampines, the Fiesta celebrates World Environment Day with a festival of youth talents. The NPark Biodiversity Trail was also invited to participate.Wei Ling put together a great booth of TeamSeagrass and the Coral Nursery for the Trail.
Since Minister Mah Bow Tan was the Guest of Honour, there was lots of media too!Part of the Trail was a Quiz which lots of people participated in.
They had some questions to answer which they could find out by looking at the exhibits and talking to the volunteers.
The Quiz is a big hit! Some get a little help from mum.While others do it gamely on their own.
We had various interested visitors too with lots of questions about our seagrasses and our shores.
Even the youngest ones dropped by the booth.
Of course it was a delight to welcome Minister Mah to the booth and share with him the work being done on our seagrasses.

Thanks to everyone who came to help out! Andy, Ivan, Robin, Shufen, Kevin and of course Wei Ling as always taking care of everything.

More about the Fiesta on the wild shores of singapore blog.