May 22, 2008

Seagrasses on the East Coast?

This early morning trip, just me and Ivan were off to check out the East Coast.

Since we weren't swimming, we thought it was alright to go ahead.

I wonder why the beach is closed? There was a lot of loose sand piled high on the beach above the high water mark. And we noticed on the shore itself, there seemed to be some loss of sand, e.g., the slipway into the beach was a lot more exposed than usual.

Alas, as Kok Sheng did warn, the tide was a tad too high to see the wonderful sea fans and other marine creatures he shared on his wonderful creations blog earlier this month.

We did come across some interesting higher tide creatures such as this rather large Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos), which obligingly posed for us as it was still dark.And a pretty swimming crab with banded legs that I've only seen regularly at Labrador and this part of the East Coast. This crab is possibly Charybdis annulata.Ivan saw lots of other stuff which he SAYS he is going to blog, and we await patiently for the eventual public launch of his blog (nudge nudge). And here is his entry on the lazy lizard blog!

We did get a glimpse of one of the sea fans in the rather murky water, and decided not to move any deeper in case we stomp on them. We hope any work on the beach will not kill off the seafans and other animals found there.

Floating in the water, I saw a very large clump of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), including part of its root. Where did it come from? Why was it uprooted?As there really wasn't much more to see on this shore, we zoomed down a little further to another stretch of the shore.

And as we wandered in the pre-dawn, washed up on the shore, we came across several large entangled clumps of Tape seagrass again!You can see the in-rolled edges that distinguish this long seagrass.I tried to take more photos and wanted to take a closer look at it, but the cleaner that was working hard on the beach was really nearby. He seemed nervous that I was taking photos and paying attention to his work and started to vigorously clean up the piles.

We move further down the beach and quickly had a look at the debris there before the cleaner could catch up. And found bits of another kind of seagrass.It has a smooth rounded tip, some cross-hatching on the veins, the blade is rather thin and flexible. They could be Thalassia hemprichi or Cymodocea rotundata. Either way both species of seagrasses are rather rare in Singapore. Some of the bits of seagrasses had black stuff on them.

Where did the seagrasses come from? Are there seagrass meadows in deeper waters off the East Coast? What's the black stuff on them? Why are there clumps on the shore? Did they get uprooted? Does this happen regularly? Is it seasonal or does this mean something has changed somewhere nearby?

The short shore was also littered with lots of dead flat clams .They look like the Leaf oyster (Isognomon sp.) that is usually found attached to mangrove roots. How did these end up here in such numbers?

On the high shore, Ivan notices lots of dead Button shells (Umbonium vestiarum) which were also previously seen in large numbers at Tanah Merah. Are they somewhere near the East Coast too? And on the water line, a large Arabica cowrie (Cypraea arabica)!This is a rather rare cowrie that we usually only see near coral reefs.

Wow, where is all this stuff coming from? It is also possible these snails "came with" the sand that is placed on the East Coast shore. Or there might be ecosystems nearby that we don't know about, yet?

These thoughts mulled in our heads as we enjoyed a spectacular sunrise. Alas, daylight also revealed an issue that is particularly vexing on the East Coast ... Litter that even the invisible army of cleaners haven't gotten to this morning.Trash of all kinds, big and small, are found on the shore.
Plastic is particularly abundant. Plastic kills marine life and plastic lasts for a long long time in the marine ecosystem.

And where does all this trash come from? We didn't have to look very far to find one of the sources.
Yes, it's lovely having breakfast with a glorious sea view. And it doesn't take much effort to toss the breakfast remains into the dustbin just a few paces away. It boggles the mind that some people just don't make the effort.

Erosion at the East Coast also looks pretty bad.The erosion has reached the roots of these tall trees that must have been planted in the park years ago.

Meanwhile, some plants have naturally taken root at the shore.
Some like this coconut palm was probably brought in by the sea.
These was also a bunch of young Sea almonds, next to an Acacia. And a large Sea hibiscus bush. A stretch of the shore was covered with the colourful Seashore morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) , truly in full glory this morning. These humble plants play an important role in binding sand on the shore (see the previous blog entry). And they are really pretty too!

Do these naturally sprouting plants help mitigate the erosion problem? Does a more natural approach to managing our shores help protect from loss of land?

There is indeed a lot still to learn and explore about our shores.

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