Jul 2, 2010

Singapore oil spill in Seagrass Watch Magazine issue 41, Jun 10

The Seagrass-Watch magazine issue 41, Jun 2010 is now online!
The lead feature this issue explores the important issue of putting an economic value to seagrasses: "Many would argue that ecological systems are 'priceless'. However, by not valuing natural resources, when decisions are made, the value may be assumed to be zero" begins the authors in the introduction.

The article discusses the why and how of pricing seagrass meadows. And provides a table of some astonishing values.
In this issue, Rudi has kindly included a compilation of events and sightings during the recent oil spill in Singapore. It basically consolidates much of the information that is available on the Oil Spill facebook group, and on wild shores of singapore posts about the oil spill.
I was eagerly looking forward to Len's valuable insights and information on what happens when crude oil hits seagrasses. Len explains that seagrasses are not so much affected by the "more spectacular oil slick" but are primarily harmed by "the absorption of seawater-soluble fraction (SWSF) of oil." This SWSF thing is a kind of cocktail of dissolved or suspended tiny bits of icky hydrocarbons. Toxic bits are "thought to be able to pass from the SWSF" into seagrass blades where they tend to accumulate in the chloroplasts, the stuff that allows seagrasses to undergo photosynthesis.
Another possible consequence of an oil spill is a bloom of algae (seaweed) which can smother seagrasses. It may take a year before things return to normal on a seagrass meadow, and there may be lingering "sublethal" effects for five years or more. Len ends by saying that our understanding of oil spill impact on seagrasses is limited because "there is a general lack of substantial long-term field data" before and after an oil spill.

Thus, the work that TeamSeagrass has done monitoring Chek Jawa's seagrasses well before the oil spill will hopefully allow us to better understand the impact of oil spills here and elsewhere too! Bravo for the Team!

There's also a lovely feature about Choo Chee Kuang, a dear friend of TeamSeagrass, and his team who are looking after the marinelife at Pulai. Choo is working very hard to protect the Pulai meadows.
Pulai lies just across the Johor Strait from our Tuas monitoring area. And it's near the mysterious Pulau Merambong that we often see on the horizon when we are on Tuas. Of course, the Pulai shores are enormous!
Wow, see what awesome seagrass species they have there!
Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that a joint study is being conducted to develop a cross-border tourist attraction involving Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and three Johor Ramsar sites of Sungai Pulai, Pulau Kukup and Tanjong Piai. Read more about this study and about Sungai Pulai from wild shores of singapore.

It's fascinating reading stories and seeing photos of seagrasses in faraway places that yet look so familiar to us. Seagrass meadows do join hearts and hands together across the oceans! Read about efforts to protect the Gili Islands off Lombok, the beautiful Shoalwater Bay and Roebuck's Ramsar Wetland in Australia, students on Suva in Fiji, and the awesome "Centre of the Centre" or Verde Island Passage of the Philippines, which as been described as the epicentre of marine shorefish biodiversity.

Looking at the feature on Madagascar seagrasses, aren't you glad we don't have to monitor our seagrasses this way?! Well, of course, we can't even if we wanted to. Alas, our waters aren't as crystal clear. Sigh.
The issue ends with a delightful feature on everyone's favourite shore creature, the cuddly hermit crab. Well, he would be cuddly if he didn't pinch so much. Learn all about these endearing creatures, including how they might use as 'homes': coral, stones, wood and even broken coke bottles!
So download the magazine from the Seagrass Watch website and read all these fascinating articles!

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