Jul 27, 2009

Seagrasses and TeamSeagrass on YouTube

What are seagrasses and why are they important? Find out on this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66Y5vgswj20, produced by Seagrass-Watch HQ.

With lots of gorgeous photos of many different kinds of seagrasses throughout the world. It includes many photos of Singapore's seagrasses and seagrass fauna, as well as the outreach and monitoring efforts of TeamSeagrass! Thanks Len and Rudi for featuring our humble shores and our efforts for them.

You can also download the high res version of this presentation from the Seagrass-Watch website.

From the latest Seagrass-Watch e-bulletin 26 Jul 09 which is packed with latest seagrass news and happenings. Go check it out now!

Our Semakau trip yesterday is already in the bulletin and on the Seagrass-Watch gallery! Woo hoo!

Jul 26, 2009

Pulau Semakau (26 Jul 09)

TeamSeagrass is back on Pulau Semakau today! Though the weather forecast was for a storm with thunder and lightning, and it got ominous as we started the ferry trip, we went ahead anyway.
We got a ride on the NEA bus for this early morning trip! Saving us the more than 1km walk into the shore. What a special unexpected treat! Thanks to the ever friendly NEA officers who were so obliging even though they had a busy day ahead of them.

Aside from a few rumbles and light flashes in the sky, the weather seemed to have settled into a murky gloom when we arrived at our start point. We sort out the equipment and have a little briefing, going through some of the key characteristics of species and some safety issues. (We still remember much of what Len and Rudi taught us at the recent Workshop!)
And everyone gathers in their site teams to further work out the details. Here's the valiant team who will do the rather sloshy and deep Site 2.
While some of the newer members get to do the less daunting Site 1. Today, each site did their own GPS readings! We sure learnt a lot from Len and Rudi at the last Workshop.
We head off through the forested path to get to the shore. Today, there were NO mossies! What a relief.
We have added a new Site 4 to Semakau, and this brave group heads out to find the site as it hasn't be staked down yet.
Shufen, who is very much showing her mama-to-be status, is the only one who knows where it is. She heads out into the water with GPS coordinates and finds the start point. Yay!
Then we triangulate to find the other start points for the site. The second transect line starts in the middle of this line perpendicular to the start point.
And this is the third transect line. With Len and Rudi's training, we managed to do this quite easily and quickly. Yay!
Thanks to the every obliging NParks team and some who answered the last minute call for help, we managed to get this additional site set up and monitored.
After helping to set up Site 4, Wei Ling and I check out the other Sites. This is Site 3, near a huge and growing patch of sponges at the edges of the seagrass lagoon.
Lee Qi and Sean are doing a great job at the transect. Together, we figured out some of the species.
Meanwhile, the intrepid Water Quality monitoring team went ahead with their work. Even though they were short two members of their team. Bravo!
Today was a busy day at Pulau Semakau. A team of media people were on the shore and guided by Marcus Ng, also a TeamSeagrass member. Here's the line of visitors crossing the seagrass lagoon while the Team at Site 3 is at work.
After the monitoring is done, the Team have a quick look around the rest of this marvellous shore.
The seagrass meadows at Semakau are very much alive! And provide food and shelter for all kinds of animals. I saw this beautiful lacy egg ribbon probably laid by a nudibranch, wreathed among the long Tape seagrasses.
There are also large Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) among the seagrasses. Some of these are homes to False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris).
NParks also took the opportunity to check out some rare coastal and mangrove trees found on Pulau Semakau, and to collect seeds for propagation and replanting.

The weather turned out great today! It didn't rain, but it was cool and breezy.

Thanks to everyone who turned up, especially those who answered the call for help.

The team today included: Andy, Hannah, Kah Ming, Sam Lai, Sam Yeo, Charmaine, Kenerf, Liu Jia, Cornie, Joo Yong, Lee Qi, Suizlyn, Michell, Sean, Vanitha, Yen-ling, Kevin, Cheng Puay, Suryati, OnG nUaN qIn, Joycelyn Tan, Suzanna chiang, Rozaimi, Jim, Uma, Mei Hwan, Aparna, Collin, Shufen, Wei Ling. We sure missed having Siti on our trip.

On this trip, we were also joined by Dr Daphne Fauntin and her student Andrea. Dr Daphne is the world authority on sea anemones and is in Singapore to study our sea anemones. We are fortunate to have her take a look at those found on Pulau Semakau.

More posts about this trip

Global warming may impede eelgrass growth

Michelle Ma, The Seattle Times The Miami Herald 26 Jul 09;
SEQUIM, Wash. -- Scientist Ron Thom probably knows more than anyone else about the growth of eelgrass, the humble marine plant commonly found in sheltered bays, inlets and other shallow waters.

Each summer, he and other researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory here tread patiently along the muddy tidal flats of Sequim Bay counting, snipping and tagging strands of the plant that's so crucial to shoreline ecosystems.

Thom, a staff scientist at the Marine Sciences Laboratory, started the research almost 20 years ago. It's become the world's longest-running study measuring eelgrass growth.

Pollution and shoreline development have killed much of the world's eelgrass. Now, Thom's work has attracted widespread attention for data that suggest the plant's growth also could be vulnerable to changes in climate.

"Growth rate is so important with these plants because they are producing habitat for so many things," Thom said. "We typically don't have these long-term data sets to evaluate these things."

Eelgrass, native to Puget Sound, is found along the entire West Coast and throughout the Northern hemisphere.

The plant provides habitat for young salmon, shellfish and birds, and helps prevent shoreline erosion.

It grows in large clusters or as individual plants. In Puget Sound the thin, ribbonlike plants grow everywhere from shallow waters to depths greater than 30 feet.

Thom's study suggests that yearly eelgrass growth changes according to variations in climate. For example, during warmer, wetter years, eelgrass plants in shallow water grow faster. But when temperatures in the Northwest are cooler, Thom's data has shown less growth.

"The bottom line is, climate affects plants," Thom said, adding that eelgrass is most sensitive to changes in temperature and sea level.

The variations in climate known as El Nino and La Nina have caused different growth rates in eelgrass, the study has found.

During El Nino, scientists have measured higher sea levels and warmer temperatures in the Northwest - changes similar to those predicted under global warming. So scientists can look at how eelgrass responds during El Nino to see how it might behave as the Earth warms, Thom said.

But it's still unclear whether a warmer Earth will help or hurt eelgrass. Shallow-water eelgrass tends to grow faster when sea level is higher, Thom said. But for eelgrass that grows deep below the surface, a rise in the sea level could diminish its access to light, killing the plants, he said.

Thom started keeping track of eelgrass growth in Sequim Bay nearly two decades ago as a project for summer interns. Over the years, he has returned to the same plot of tidelands to collect more data. Thom started noticing a strong connection between eelgrass growth rates and different climate patterns.

At the mouth of Sequim Bay, researchers and interns measure eelgrass every two weeks during the summer. They poke a hole at the base of each plant using a hypodermic needle, then return two weeks later to harvest each plant.

Back in the lab, they find the marked spot in each plant. They snip and save all of the new plant growth, dry it in an oven, then weigh it for a precise biomass reading. Those numbers go into the database to be compared with past and future measurements.

Eelgrass is declining worldwide and has disappeared completely from a number of sites in Puget Sound, said Jeff Gaeckle, a sea-grass ecologist with the state Department of Natural Resources. Its Soundwide eelgrass-monitoring program is the largest on the West Coast and seeks to track changes in eelgrass abundance.

The good news is that overall in Puget Sound, eelgrass isn't declining year to year. But several locations, mostly in Hood Canal and the San Juan Islands, are seeing decreases, which has scientists concerned, Gaeckle said.

"It's hard to pinpoint what's causing the changes," he said. Scientists suspect development, polluted runoff, commercial fishing, and now changes in climate as possible reasons.

Thom plans to submit his findings on eelgrass growth for publication later this summer. He said he's concerned that a large-scale eelgrass die-off could happen in Sequim Bay, like in other parts of the Sound. He also will continue the study, with the hope that his data will help provide more answers on what's affecting the plant.

Losing eelgrass could hurt the future survival of fisheries and impact the economy worldwide, Thom said.

"There is a big, big concern," he said.

Jul 2, 2009

TeamSeagrass is now certified!

I just got my fabulous Seagrass-Watch certificate for attending the Seagrass-Watch training sessions in May!
The certificate looks so professional! It's probably one of hardest certs that I've had to work for.

Len and Rudi worked even harder than all of us!
They conducted three sessions: Level 1 classroom and Level 1 field and Level 2 classroom. And also audited our processes during our Semakau monitoring in May.
With this massive exercise, all core TeamSeagrass volunteers are certified as well as many of those who have just joined. This gives us confidence in doing our monitoring work effectively, correctly and safely.

Thank you Len and Rudi!