Jul 14, 2007

A shadow of Beting Bronok

It was with great trepidation that we visited this submerged reef off Pulau Tekong early this morning. Not just because it is a rather tricky landing, on a reef that is only exposed at the lowest tides. But because it had been severely impacted by the massive flooding early this year that also caused mass deaths at Chek Jawa.

We had heard that there was some recovery. But how would it compare to the glorious reef that we knew? It is our first visit here in nearly a year.

It was a quiet shore on a dark moonless night. Some of the familiar residents were soon encountered.

Several Biscuit sea stars (Goniodiscaster scabra) were spotted.
And one that look like a biscuit sea star but wasn't, as the underside clearly shows.
I still don't know what this sea star is.

My first sight of a Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) for the year! These sea stars used to be common on Chek Jawa but they got wiped out in the flood. These massive sea stars used to be very common on Beting Bronok and it was heartening to hear that several were sighted by the rest of the team.

Beting Bronok is also the only place I know of in Singapore where feather stars or crinoids can be regularly seen on the intertidal. It was nice to see this black-and-white one.
And another blue one nestled on what looks like a nicely regenerating branching purple sponge.
Other echinoderms spotted included one Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis), a smooth sea cucumber and a purple sea cucumber. While it's nice to see some representatives, it was disturbing that their numbers were so low.

The team also spotted a sea horse, in a pool among the Parasol seaweed (Caulerpa peltata) that was unusually abundant on this shore today.Various slugs were seen. Of course, I can only spot big ones. This one is Dendrodoris denisoni.Alas, there were virtually no sea fans. This struggling little specimen with only one branch of living polyps was the only one I spotted.
Often mistaken for plants, these branching lifeforms are animals. Each a colony of tiny white polyps that look like small sea anemones: with a long body column topped with tentacles.

I didn't even see many skeletons of dead sea fans, except for this one. The photo on the right is an old photo what a sea fan looks like when it's alive.Below are the sea fans that we usually see on Beting Bronok. The shore is usually bristling with these colourful animals.
Unbranched sea fans called sea whips were also common on Beting Bronok. Today I only saw dead ones. The photo on the right shows a living sea whip taken nearly two years ago.
There were very few soft corals. Usually the shore is abloom with pink flowery soft corals. Today I only saw one tiny colony. It had a tiny snail on it (see photo on the right). Which of course I only realised after I got home and processed the photo *slap forehead*.

There were very small colonies of hard corals starting up on hard surfaces.
Many of the large colonies looked highly distressed. With bleached and dead portions.And we didn't see any of the Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) or other colourful corals that we usually see on this shore. Most sorely missed is the single large Trachyphyllia coral (left photo) and the many Heliofungia actiniformis mushroom corals (right photo) that used to dot the shores. The above are the last photos I took of these corals.

Beting Bronok is also the only place where we have regularly seen the large and handsome Bailer snail (Melo melo). The photo on the left is the last I took of a living snail.Today, all I saw were small empty shells (right photo).

Today, Beting Bronok is just a shadow of its former self. Here's some photos of this shore in its former glory.

The shores crowded with sponges and other colourful animals taken in May 2006, among our last trips to this shore last year.
The almost surreal shapes and colours of life on Beting Bronok, taken in August 2005.And a photo of the shore before reclamation started on Pulau Tekong, taken in May 2003.
MORE photos of Benting Bronok before the flood on wildsingapore flickr.

Will Beting Bronok recover its former glory? Will it be able to withstand another freshwater onslaught in this El Nina year?

Many questions, much to learn about our very beautiful and fragile shores.

More about our BB trip on Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog

No comments: