TeamSeagrass and global seagrass monitoring in 2008

A bumper issue of the International Seagrass Watch Newsletter marks the end of 2008 and the beginning of bigger things!
Our very own TeamSeagrass Singapore is part of this global programme and there's a fabulous article about the Team's efforts throughout the year.Read more about the Team's past adventures and escapades. Including, "The Fastest Site to Monitor Award", "The Toughest Seagrasser Award", "Best Boatman Award", "The Wonky Tides Award", "The Funniest Gullible Moment Award", and more!

There are also fascinating articles about rays, dugongs and seagrass efforts and issues throughout the world. Download the Seagrass Watch Newsletter and read all the articles for yourself!

Want to join TeamSeagrass? Simply email these details
(a) your full name
(b) your age
(c) your email address
(d) your contact number
(e) any previous experience
to Ria at, please put "TeamSeagrass" in your subject header.

Please read the FAQs on the TeamSeagrass blog for any questions you might have about the programme. This link includes all monitoring dates in Singapore for 2009.

See you on the seagrass soon!

Full moon madness: last low spring tide of 2008

The moon was full (the biggest in 15 years, scientists tell us) and thus the calendars of shore explorers were also full. A flurry of shores were visited, guided walks conducted and monitoring done. And our first wedding couple on Cyrene Reef too! Here's all the wacky encounters during this last super low tide of the year.

Way before the full moon madness, the Hantu Bloggers had a fantastic dive at the reefs of Pulau Hantu. With sightings of feather stars and lots and lots of nudibranchs! Such as this large and beautiful Snakey Bornella nudibranch (Bornella anguilla) munching on a mouthful of hydroids!

Semakau overdose

The Semakau Book Project team made a flurry of trips and dives to Pulau Semakau in preparation for this coffee-table book about the biodiversity of this special island. The Book is be published in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Semakau Landfill.

While half the team went diving in Semakau's waters, another group explored the coastline at not-low-tide taking a closer look at the life on the high water mark and checking up on the very rare Seashore Bat Lily (Tacca leontopetaloides).
This plant was first discovered by Joseph Lai during the Semakau mangrove survey conducted by Zeehan Jaafar and Loh Tse Lynn in 2005. This plant is listed as Critically Endangered in the 2008 Red List of threatened plants of Singapore. It is restricted to a few populations in Pulau Semakau and Pulau Pawai (just opposite Pulau Semakau).

Alas, some areas were badly affected by marine litter that drift in all our waters and end up on all our shores, and signs of an ill mangrove tree were seen.

The team returned a few days later to explore the southern mangroves of Pulau Semakau and despite the rain saw lots of other interesting marine life.
Including this rare Cyptic sea star (Cryptasterina sp.) which has so far been seen only on Pulau Semakau. And special mangrove trees such as Ceriops tagal.

The Book team also joined TeamSeagrass for monitoring at Pulau Semakau. As usual, after the monitoring session, a quick walk around resulted in stunning sightings include sea stars, huge sea cucumbers, a very pretty Tomato anemone fish and other marine life.
This is not something people usually expect at a landfill.

A Cyrene wedding!

The newly-weds were the highlight of a TeamSeagrass monitoring session at Cyrene Reef. The first among Team members and the first on Cyrene Reef. And the seagrasses on Cyrene were in full bloom as if to celebrate the occasion.
Highlights of the trip included tiny bright orange brittle stars on a purple soft coral and some special sea stars. First-timers enjoyed the trip too!

Soft and special

Another shore that makes you go "WOW!" was visited. Because it's very soft and you easily end up literally in deep trouble. But also because of the amazing unexpected encounters there.
Such as gianormous sea stars, as well as some strange snails that the exploring team have not seen before. There was also earlier visit on 30 Nov to this shore.

Sentosa surprises

Sentosa was much visited and discussed during this full moon. There were walks by the Naked Hermit Crabs for the annual family trip during the school holidays, as well as a special walk with SWA and a closer look at the more man-made parts of the Sentosa shores. Some thoughts were also shared about the possible impact of ZoukOut on the shores.

Other shore trips

A visit to a Changi shore impacted by 'beach improvement' shows some life still struggling there. Elsewhere, a rocky shore provides interesting encounters. The continuing low tides reveals Tanah Merah to be teeming with button snails, sand dollars and sand stars.
While Pasir Ris has living seagrass meadows and a galaxy of tiny creatures even in a shallow pool of weeds, such as the tiny Cerberilla nudibranch in the photo above. The Semakau guides also explored St. John's Island which still has rare mangroves and other surprises.

Outreach and efforts for our reefs and shores
Lots of work got done on the shores and in the classroom
In the news
Other posts about our shores
  • Nothing to do thoughts about visiting our own country, on the annotated budak blog.
  • How long can it last? some thoughts about our disappearing shores, on the annotated budak blog.

Marine litter: Singapore coastline getting dirtier

Despite public anti-littering campaigns and annual cleanups involving thousands of people, Singapore's coasts are dirtier than they were five years ago, according to new data. Over 9,755kg of waste, from plastic bags to refrigerators, was fished off beaches and mangroves during a mammoth cleanup in September, almost 400kg more than in 2007.

The cleanup was organised by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) and was part of a worldwide drive.
Full PDF on the Straits Times Online.

Locally, over 2,500 people - from schoolchildren to business executives and civil servants - took part in the event, fanning out to coastal areas from Changi to Jurong.

The results of the cleanup were recently computed by the entirely volunteer-run ICCS.

Lead coordinator N. Sivasothi said he was not surprised by the volume of trash collected.

He described the cleanup as a stopgap measure, saying the only way to cut down on beach-front trash is to encourage conservation.

'If we use less, that will mean fewer things we need to dispose of. Proper disposal is important so that trash doesn't end up in drains which wash into the sea,' he said.

Full reports on the wildsingapore news blog

You CAN make a difference! Sign up with the ICCS mailing list for updates on coastal cleanup activities.

A fifth of coral reefs dead: only emission cuts can save the rest, says IUCN

"If nothing is done to substantially cut emissions, we could effectively lose coral reefs as we know them, with major coral extinctions,”

The world has lost 19 percent of its coral reefs, and if current trends in carbon dioxide emissions continue, many of the remaining reefs may be lost over the next 20 to 40 years.

Climate change is considered the biggest threat to coral reefs with impacts such as increasing sea surface temperatures and acidification. These are exacerbated by overfishing, pollution and invasive species.

Encouragingly, 45 percent of the world’s reefs are currently healthy. Another sign of hope is the ability of some corals to recover after major bleaching events, caused by warming waters, and to adapt to climate change threats.

However, the report shows that, globally, the downward trend of recent years has not been reversed.

This according to the 2008 global update of the world’s reef status, released by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Full article on the IUCN website with links to downloads of original reports, and on the wildsingapore news blog.

More links to related reports on the wild shores of singapore blog.

BlueTube by Conservation International

BlueTube is an outreach effort by Conservation International's Marine Program.

Subscribe to Blue Tube community to stay informed of their marine conservation efforts.

Video clips include
  • Walking Shark
  • Bird's Head Seascape: Call to Action
  • Seascapes 4th Annual Workshop
  • Earth Expeditions: Raja Ampat

Singapore-Delft Water Alliance: help for our reefs, seagrasses and mangroves?

Murky, sediment-laden waters and other stresses on our marine ecosystems. Learning more about these and how to build harbours that can also sustain marine life are the aim of the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, a team of Singapore and Dutch researchers.
The team is also looking at Pulau Semakau to house an aquatic centre.

The team will learn precisely how the ecosystem reacts to stresses and will then conduct tests to try to develop more natural ways to prevent erosion or biodiversity loss.

'This is about regional planning to increase the biodiversity for any type of coastal development, whether on the cityfront, port or nature park."

In some cases, restoring coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves may provide enough protection for the shoreline. But as such buffers have to extend 100m inland from the waterline to land safe enough to build on, they can be put up only in areas far from the Central Business District. On coasts by the CBD or sites to moor vessels, a hard shoreline might be the only alternative as its width is 20m. However, it could incorporate hiding places to encourage fish and corals to grow.

Singapore will be one of four sites for the studies, with the rest in the Netherlands. The teams will create a coastal marine development programme, beginning with pilot tests, that can eventually be implemented at shorelines worldwide.

The team is also looking to establish "an aquatic centre in a marine setting, hopefully on one of the southern islands where we have the rare condition of pristine nature in close proximity to urban developments."

A dream site for the researchers would be Pulau Semakau, where coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows flourish alongside the dumping grounds of waste incinerators. A concrete wall separates the natural from the man-made. The marine aquatic centre will be similar to a freshwater research centre at Sungei Ulu Pandan, which has an open concept, inviting passers-by to come in and find out more about science.

Discussions with government agencies, including the National Parks Board, Building & Construction Authority and the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, have begun to find the best sites for the projects.

Work will begin on research models at the Tropical Marine Sciences Institute's laboratories on St John's Island. Once perfected, these projects will find a home in nature.

Full report on Developing Singapore's shorelines the eco-friendly way by Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 6 Dec 08 is on the wildsingapore news blog.

More details about the SDWA projects and links to more articles on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Masterplan: bigger and wilder!

Sungei Buloh celebrates its 15th annivesary with big plans for an expanded reserve and keeping parts of it wild.

Celebrations continue today with lots of activities! More on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve website.

A draft masterplan was launched yesterday during the Reserve's 15th anniversary celebrations that will expand the 130-hectare Reserve. Plans include:

Linking the current reserve to at least three other mangroves, reservoirs and marshes in the nearby Lim Chu Kang and Kranji areas. A footpath access from Kranji Dam will be enhanced with amenities such as shelters, allowing visitors to use an alternative entry point instead of the main one at Neo Tiew Crescent.

Setting four zones to cater to different visitors, such as a wetland playground for children and restricted areas for researchers only. In those designated as medium to high activity, facilities such as floating boardwalks, outdoor classrooms and a children's play area will be built. Access to the other two zones will be kept minimal, possibly requiring the accompaniment of certified nature guides or limited only to researchers.

To strengthen the park's educational efforts, the visitor centre will be upgraded to include a new lookout tower for birdwatchers, meeting rooms and dormitory-style accommodation for research groups. Mr Wong said some research requires overnight work, while other researchers could stay the night to prepare for early activities the following day.

A working group, with members from the Nature Society, Singapore Environment Council and national water agency PUB among others, is finalising the concept plan, which should be ready in a year's time.

NParks says the cost of the project will depend on the finalised masterplan, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2009. Construction will start a year later and is expected to be completed by early 2013.

There are no cost estimates yet and the park hopes to double the number of visitors to 200,000 a year with the new masterplan.

Full reports about these plans on the wildsingapore news blog.

More blog posts about the anniversary celebrations
More about Sungei Buloh on the wildsingapore website.

Reef Friends Survey Training in Dec 08

Are you a diver looking to make a difference for our reefs? Here's a great opportunity to do so!
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon during the first ReefFriends Survey of Kusu Island in 2008.

ReefFriends is a volunteer based coral reef survey programme that monitors the status of coral reefs of Singapore through bimonthly surveys. This Blue Water Volunter programme is currently sponsored by the National Parks Board. Results of these surveys are submitted to the National Parks Board, NUS Marine Biology Lab and Reef Check.

More about the ReefFriends programme on the Blue Water Volunteers website.

Details of the upcoming training for ReefFriends

Theory classes: 11, 16, 18 and 23 Dec 08
(Dates of the practical classes to be decided on the first day of the course)

Time: 7-10pm
Venue: Classroom 4, Botany Centre, Tanglin Core, Singapore Botanic Gardens

What the course will cover:
  • What is BWV all about?
  • What is the Reef Friends survey about?
  • Basic coral reef facts
  • Survey techniques
Cost: The course will cost S$100. This will only cover admin costs (training materials, room bookings etc). It will not include costs for the practical sessions (there will be a minimum of two practical sessions).

Sign up for this here


Chek Jawa intertidal walk dates for Jan-Jul 09 now online

Bookings open today for walks in Jan-Mar 09. To book a tour call the Pulau Ubin Hotline (Tel: 6542-4108) or visit their Information Kiosk between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm. More details on the NParks website, Pulau Ubin page.

Chek Jawa intertidal walks, Jan-Jul 09

Available for booking from 1st Dec 08 onwards
9th Jan 09 Fri 2.00 PM
10th Jan 09 Sat 3.00 PM
11th Jan 09 Sun 4.00 PM
7th Feb 09 Sat 2.00 PM
8th Feb 09 Sun 3.00 PM
9th Feb 09 Mon 4.00 PM
9th Mar 09 Mon 3.00 PM
10th Mar 09 Tue 4.00 PM

Available for booking from 1st Mar 09 onwards
1st Apr 09 Wed 8.00 AM
2nd Apr 09 Thu 8.00 AM
3rd Apr 09 Fri 10.00 AM
15th Apr 09 Wed 8.00 AM
16th Apr 09 Thu 8.00 AM
29th Apr 09 Wed 8.00 AM
30th Apr 09 Thu 8.00 AM
1st May 09 Fri 8.00 AM
2nd May 09 Sat 10.00 AM
15th May 09 Fri 8.00 AM
28th May 09 Thu 8.00 AM
29th May 09 Fri 8.00 AM
30th May 09 Sat 8.00 AM
31st May 09 Sun 9.00 AM
13th June 09 Sat 8.00 AM
14th June 09 Sun 8.00 AM
27th June 09 Sat 8.00 AM
28th June 09 Sun 8.00 AM
29th June 09 Mon 9.00 AM

Can't make it for these dates?
Consider joining the free Chek Jawa Boardwalk tour every last Sunday of the month with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Updated Singapore Red Data book launches today

A second version of The Singapore Red Data Book, which lists endangered and threatened wildlife here, has been published here after 14 years. It features over 2,700 animals and plants which are threatened.

'If a group wanted to do an environmental impact assessment on a marine site, members would consult it. So would building developers who wanted to flatten a piece of land,'

Examples include the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and Resorts World at Sentosa which have spent millions of dollars on environmental impact assessments before planning their excavations.

Look up Singapore Red Data to preserve heritage
New version of book on threatened species can be a guide for urban planners
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 29 Nov 08;
POLICYMAKERS and urban planners have been given an up-to-date tool to help them with urban development, while preserving Singapore's natural heritage.

A second version of The Singapore Red Data Book, which lists endangered and threatened wildlife here, has been published here after 14 years.

It features over 2,700 animals and plants which are threatened.

The first edition, spearheaded by biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS), was meant as a guide for conservationists.

However, a co-editor of the first book, Professor Peter Ng, said government officials, the business community and civil society had turned to it as a major source of reference.

'If a group wanted to do an environmental impact assessment on a marine site, members would consult it. So would building developers who wanted to flatten a piece of land,' said Prof Ng, who is with the university's department of biological sciences, and heads the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research as well as the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Examples include the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and Resorts World at Sentosa which have spent millions of dollars on environmental impact assessments before planning their excavations.

About 50 scientists were involved in the latest effort, which took 10 years to complete. Among them, for the first time, were naturalists from the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Nature Society of Singapore.

Co-editor Dr Ho Hua Chew, chairman of the conservation committee of the Nature Society (Singapore), said it 'showed how engaged all parts of the community were in this decade-long endeavour'.

Not all local species have declined.

The Malayan porcupine, for instance, which was feared extinct, was photographed in Pulau Tekong in 2005.

Others, however, like the cream- coloured giant squirrel, last seen in 1995 in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, may be gone for good.

Dr Geoffrey Davison, who is assistant director at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre and another co-editor of the book, stressed that the fate of many of the species that still remain in Singapore would depend on the survival of the nature reserves.

The Singapore freshwater crab - which is found only here - is a case in point.

In Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, its numbers are dwindling as streams become more acidic, possibly due to acid rain, said Prof Ng.

The only other site where this crab is found is on a hill in Bukit Batok. However, the stream where it was once found in abundance is drying up as the ground water drains away because of building developments on the other side of the hill.

'It would be a waste if this species, which is found nowhere else in the world, disappears,' he said.

Editors of the new information resource hope it will help developers plan around Singapore's natural heritage.

A section on environmental law and how it should be strengthened in Singapore has also been incorporated into the new book.

Data will also be provided to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for the global Red List - which highlights species in danger the world over.

The Singapore Red Data Book, sponsored by petrochemical giant Shell, can be purchased from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS, at the bookstore Nature's Niche off Mandai Road, and from the Nature Society of Singapore, for $20.

More about the launch and updates on the status of our marine life on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Singapore Waters now on YouTube

Nature Society (Singapore) Marine Conservation Group produced this slide show video with historical photos as well as current images of our shores and its marine life.

November says on her Midnight Monkey Monitory blog:

Quite an enlightening overview from past to present. And as stated in the video, all photographs were shot in Singapore so if you haven't got a chance to visit our many offshore islands yet, this is a good opportunity. Of course, we definitely can't travel back in time so even for monkeys like me, it was refreshing and enlightening. The video is based on the NSS publications of the same title, "Singapore Waters: Unveiling our seas". I'd say it's definitely worth the 10 minutes 39 seconds of your time.

More about Singapore Waters, the book, on the Nature Society (Singapore) website, with more photos and diagrams.

Including these diagrams showing our shores in the 1950s.and in 2002,
Clearly showing what we have lost.

Pink mangroves? Killer giant clams? and other questions answered

Hermit crabs "Big shell exchange"What happens when mangroves are exposed to pollution? How are hermit crabs with an empty shell like women at a shoe store? Do giant clams trap divers by clamping shut on them? And other intriguing questions about our reefs and shores were explored this past week!

What happens when mangroves are exposed to pollution?Chay Hoon blogs about Mangroves as bioindicators. She attended a Mangrove workshop conducted by Dr Jean Yong at RMBR. He had gone to Lim Chu Kang to collect some Bakau Minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) seedlings which had turned pink! The seedling is usually green, like the one on the left of the photo. Dr Yong said it's like a pregnant mother exposing to bad stuffs (eg radiation/second-hand smoking) and the baby gets affected.

How are hermit crabs and an empty shell like women at a shoe store?
Hermit crabs "Big shell exchange"
Ria blogs about hermit crabs at the Great Shell Exchange sharing more on how hermit crabs can literally sniff out empty shellls. She also explains why it's important not to take home any shells. Or to keep hermit crabs as pets.

Giant clams trap divers by clamping shut on their hands or feet!

Mei Lin our "Giant Clam Girl" blogs on this in Is this true? and dispells this misconception. In her work with them, she has found them to be very gentle creatures and she explains other reasons why this situation is impossible.

Who are these two?

Marcus blogs about the goby and snapping shrimp on Holemates and shares lots of links about the endearing relationship between these two different animals, as well as how to identify them.

How's Raffles Lighthouse reefs doing?

Jeff blogs about the recent deep transect with the results.

What happened on the City Footprints show about volunteers for our shores?

Jun did an instant review of the programme with lots of inside information.

What's new on the wildsingapore wildfacts site?

Family Cirratulidae
WORMS! With kind comments from Leslie Harris, Ria has updated flatworms, bristleworms and other worms on the wildfacts site.

What recent developments have been announced that impact on our shores?

Alas, several are listed on the wild shores of singapore

13 Dec (Sat): Kusu Island Reefwalk with the Blue Water Volunteers

Our wild and wonderful coral reefs are just too exciting to be enjoyed by divers only! Non-swimmers are most welcome, as we only visit the reefs during low tide, so you only expect to get wet around your ankles at most.

Trained and enthusiastic volunteer guides will introduce you to the marine life found on Kusu Island and share reef stories.

Suitable for children.

Pre-registration is required.

Time: 4-8pm
Venue: to be advised
Cost: $15/person

Protect Singapore's mangroves and economic growth

Experts should study whether more of Singapore's mangrove forests are worth protecting under conservation laws, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday. He said the National Parks Board (NParks) and university researchers need to evaluate whether it is possible to preserve mangroves without threatening economic development.

Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 25 Nov 08;

EXPERTS should study whether more of Singapore's mangrove forests are worth protecting under conservation laws, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

He said the National Parks Board (NParks) and university researchers need to evaluate whether it is possible to preserve mangroves without threatening economic development.

Dr Yaacob was responding to questions from The Straits Times during the launch of a new book about local mangroves.

Singapore has lost 90 per cent of its mangroves since independence, and only one site has been gazetted for protection: the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the island's north shore.

Mangroves are home to thousands of unique plants and animals, with new discoveries being made every year. But the forests are threatened by retail, industrial and housing developments.
Their role was highlighted in the book, Private Lives: An Expose Of Singapore's Mangroves (above), which was launched yesterday.

The title is a guide to the plants and animals found in the mangroves, and calls for their conservation.

Professor Peter Ng, director of the Tropical Marine Science Institute and an editor of the book, said at the unveiling that more of Singapore's mangroves need to be protected.

He noted that mangroves on the northern shores are different from those in the south.

'Rivers make the waters in the north far less salty than waters in the south, which give the plants and animals very different characteristics,' he said.

However, Professor Leo Tan, the National University of Singapore's director of special projects, who conceptualised a three-year census of marine species at Pulau Semakau, said it would be premature to pick a site for protection on the mainland.

'Sungei Buloh's 130ha is a substantial amount of land. We have to consider the large pristine sites that are already being protected in firing ranges on our southern islands.'

Dr Lena Chan, deputy director of the National Biodiversity Centre at NParks, said there are other ways to protect mangroves besides gazetting them for conservation.

'We can also designate them as nature areas, like the mangroves in Pasir Ris Park, Pulau Tekong or the mangrove in Sungei China, which was recently incorporated as a nature area within Admiralty Park,' she said.

Singapore's Mangroves: more than mud and mozzies

Only about 5 per cent of mangrove swamps are left in Singapore, but this muddy land where salt water meets fresh is a safe haven for a wealth of plants and animals, as highlighted in a new book here.
Read more about our mangroves in Mangrove's many uses: Good news, bad news, ugly truth, By Peter Ng, Wang Luan Keng & Kelvin Lim Straits Times 22 Nov 08; based on excerpts from a new book, Private Lives: An Expose Of Singapore's Mangroves.

Reef Check's Singing Contest: submit by 31 Dec 08

Sing the Year of the Reef Song on video and enter Reef Check's contest!First place - One US $1000 prize
Second place - One US $600 prize
Third place - One US $400 prize

Period for submitting your group video: 15 Sep - 31 Dec 08

Increase your chances of winning by
  • Creating a version of the Year of the Reef Song using instruments and musical arrangements, e.g. reggae, rock, or local style
  • Singing/filming at a place of meaning to your group, e.g. beach, temple, historical location
  • Dressing in attire that celebrates local culture or that represents your music genre/style
  • Singing in local language(s) or dialect(s)

During the 2008 International Year of the Reef (IYOR), help save reefs and share your creativity and culture with others by creating a video using the Year of the Reef Song. Reef Check Foundation (RCF) is running this contest with the goal of getting young people to learn more about the marine environment. In addition to having a lot of fun, you could win great prizes!

About This Contest: Three cash prizes will be awarded to the best group performances of the IYOR Song to help finance events or activities with an educational focus on the marine environment, such as a visit to a local aquarium, trip to the beach, acquisition of marine educational materials, etc.

This is an International Contest, free to enter, and groups from every part of the world are encouraged to participate. Participants must be part of a group (e.g. school, club, religious group, etc.). We will be looking for creative, original videos that reflect your culture and celebrate ocean conservation; technical video quality will not be judged.

More details on the Reef Check Singing Contest page.

6 & 7 Dec (Sat & Sun): Mangrove walk and Adventures in the Mud by Otterman at Sungei Buloh

Free guided walk plus talk plus examination of mangrove specimens!

In celebration of the anniversary of the official opening of Singapore's first wetlands reserve at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, the Raffles Museum Toddycats conduct a free guided walk for the public every year.

This year, on the 15th anniversary, we are adding an exciting talk by Otterman ("Adventures in the Mud!") as well as an examination of mangrove specimens from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research so that visitors will appreciate the morphology and adaptations of mangrove denizens!

And we will hold this over two days! The mornings of 6th (Saturday) and 7th (Sunday) of December 2008.

More details on the habitatnews blog with registration details.

Time: 7.30am-12pm on Saturday 8am-1pm on Sunday
Venue: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Website and contact:

Giant clam, special stars and other low tide surprises

Our living shores never cease to surprise. This super low tide period, lots of exciting encounters during the flurry of shore by various groups. From rare clams to special stars, delightful dollars and other curious critters.

Among the special finds was this Giant clam. It was seen on Pulau Jong, an island in the middle of our shipping lanes, next to our landfill, major bunkering facilities and petrochemical plants! Mei Lin aka the "Giant Clam Girl" who was on this field trip pronounced it to be Tridacna maxima, of which only one other specimen has so far been seen, on Raffles Lighthouse!
Read all about the clam on her brand new Psychedelic Nature blog and how this clam is sadly "functionally extinct" in Singapore. The intrepid team hazarded the landing on the aptly named "No Problem". The trip was a contrast of molluscs from tiny slugs to the giant clam; lush vegetation and other special finds.

Special stars were also seen on various shores!
At Pulau Semakau, this sea star encountered seemed to be something new.
And another star that might be Pentaceraster mammilatus. This star was first discovered on Cyrene Reef and is a first record for Singapore. Semakau also seemed to have a surfeit of slugs this time around.
While at Cyrene Reef, there was the usual over abundance of Knobbly sea stars, including one WITHOUT knobs, the sand bar was teeming with Common sea stars and there was the first sighting of a biscuit sea star there. Besides amazing crabs, there were also batfish, 'Nemos' including a really tiny one, and lots more. Samuel's first trip to Cyrene inspired him to start his Aesthetic Voyager blog.

More special sea star sightings were made at mainland shores such as Pasir Ris.
Where several sea stars with more than five arms were seen.
And at Changi where a small baby Knobbly sea star was seen.
A new shore was also explored revealing special sand dollars and other surprises.

There was also a rather sad check up on the massive coastal developments and other impacts near Labrador Nature Reserve. Students also recently presented about their project on the impact of the cofferdam on Labrador shore.

Sentosa's shores was also recced for an upcoming walk by the Naked Hermit Crabs where a very obliging baby stingray gave some good video clips.

The Blue Water Volunteers also did a Kusu Island Reefwalk but have yet to blog about it.

Other events during the period includes the first Workshop for Nature Guides by the Leafmonkey Workshop.
A sporting group of nature guides had lots of fun creating and learning about echinoderms. Come for the next workshop which will be about cnidarians.

More web updates
Some upcoming reef and marine events

25 Nov (Tue): Broadcast of "City Footprints" featuring volunteers for our shores

Recently the Star Trackers and TeamSeagrass were filmed by threesixzero for the City Footprints series on Channel U.
The programme broadcasts next week, and here's the synopsis and details.

Synopsis of City Footprints Episode 11
City Footprints is a social documentary series that tells the heartwarming stories of individuals or communities in our city- stories that mirror and reflect how individuals and community responds and reacts to paradigm shifts as a result of rapid social urbanization.

A green tide is swelling as a new generation of young Singaporeans leads the next wave of environmentalism.

Meet the Star Trackers: 26-year-old Chen Sijie and his partner, Chim Chee Kong, 31, as they brave irregular tide timings and errant weather to track and monitor sea stars on Cyrene Reefs – a mysterious coral colony that only surfaces for a few hours during the low tide period each month. The two are not alone in their roles as guardians of the seas.
As early as 2005 Siti Maryam, 27, has spearheaded a campaign to conserve an overlooked slice of nature through the volunteer group TeamSeagrass. On a little-known side of Sentosa, look at how volunteers survey local sea grass habitats before pollution and pressure overwhelm them.

As the three join hands to nurture the next wave of conservationists, find out how their efforts converge on the shorelines of Chek Jawa.

Time: 9.30pm repeats 11.30pm on Channel U

More about the field trips filmed:
Here's Sijie explaining the Star Tracker programme on our way to Cyrene Reef, while Siti was filmed during our TeamSeagrass monitoring at Sentosa, and both Star Trackers and TeamSeagrass were filmed again at Chek Jawa during the seagrass monitoring.

6 & 7 Dec (Sat & Sun): Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Anniversary Celebrations

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve celebrates its 15th Anniversary this year. Come for an activity-filled weekend. Form a team of four with your family members and take part in the Amazing Mangrove Adventure. Stand to win attractive prizes as you learn about the vibrant biodiversity found in mangroves. Or join us for nature and photography talks, exhibitions and face painting.


Throughout the weekend: Art and Photography Exhibitions

6 Dec 08 (Sat)

  • The Amazing Mangrove Adventure: 10am, 1pm, 3.30 pm (Registration Fee of $5.00 per team)
  • Face Painting for Children: 10am-12.30pm ($2/child)
  • Free Nature talks: 10am-4pm
7 Dec 08 (Sun)
  • The Amazing Mangrove Adventure: 8am, 9am, 10.30am, 12.30pm (Registration Fee of $5.00 per team)
  • Face Painting for Children: 9am-12.30pm ($2/child)
  • Free Nature talks: 9am-5pm
  • Free Nature and Photography talks: 9am-5pm

More on how to play the Amazing Mangrove Adventure (PDF file) on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve website.

For latest updates, please call tel: 67941401 (8.30am–6pm daily).

Venue: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Contact: or call 6794 1401

Comet, City Mangroves and other surprises

The big event of the fortnight was the launch of the Marina Barrage, festooned with perky Water Wallies. Near the Barrage was a small patch of mangroves! A Comet blazed and lit up a recent Hantu dive, while during the not-so-low tide some shores were explored with more interesting encounters.

The intrepid Hantu Bloggers had another fantastic dive at Pulau Hantu. Sightings included new nudis and the elusive and amazing Comet! Reef Check had a session at Pulau Jong and sightings of remoras.

A quick lowish tide check of Sentosa revealed surprises including a pair of snapping shrimps in Acropora hard coral!
Meanwhile, the launch of the Marina Barrage resulted in a barrage of blog posts. With overviews of this new reservoir in the city, and discovery of a little patch of mangroves on the Marina East side of the Barrage with mudskippers, blooming trees and busy fishermen.
At the same time, there was an effort to reach Marina East from the East Coast side with some adventures along the way. There were also explorations to the other side of St John's Island and at Pulau Semakau.

Outreach for the shores

The Barrage was also the location of this year's Clean and Green Singapore launch. The young seagrassers from RGS who are monitoring Labrador meadows had a booth to share about our seagrass meadows.
Throughout the Carnival, there was also a whole range of talks about our reefs, marine biodiversity and Chek Jawa among others.

The NParks portion of the Carnival also had an interesting wall for people to leave comments about our wild places. There were some comments about our shores.

More web updates
Some upcoming reef and marine events
Some recent issues

This weekend: talks about our reefs, marine biodiversity and Chek Jawa!

This weekend, talks on "Reefs Rock!", "Marine Biodiversity and You", "Chek Jawa: Nature Beckons" and lots of other nature and environmental topics at the Clean and Green Singapore launch at the Marina Barrage. Don't miss them!

31 Oct-2 Nov: Nature talks at Clean and Green Singapore

This just in, thanks to Lim Wei Ling, a series of nature, environmental and sporting talks at the upcoming Clean and Green Singapore launch this weekend.

31 Oct (Fri)

1800-1830hrs: "Frogs of Singapore" by Dr Leong Tzi Ming

1 Nov (Sat)

1030-1100hrs: "Cycling- The Greener Way To Go" by Joseph of Terra Outdoors

1100-1130hrs: "Organic Gardening in Urban Singapore" by Henry Yeo

1130-1200hrs: "Marine Biodiversity and You" by Siti Maryam

1230-1300hrs: "CIB- Plant Disease" by Matthew Tan

1400-1430hrs: "Let the dragons fly - showcasing dragonflies in Singapore" by Robin Ngiam

1500-1530hrs: "Reefs Rock!" by Jeffrey Low

1600-1630 hrs: "Chek Jawa: Nature Beckons" by Adelle Wang

1730-1800hrs: "Introduction to Inline Skating and Safety Etiquette" by Jason Ng of Skateline /Skate Assist Volunteer (SAV)

2 Nov (Sun)

1230-1300hrs: "Marine Biodiversity and You" by Siti Maryam

1300-1330hrs: "Going Green with Singapore's Native Plants" by Joyce Foo

1330-1400hrs: "Let the dragons fly - showcasing dragonflies in Singapore" by Robin Ngiam

1400-1430hrs: "Organic Gardening in Urban Singapore" by Henry Yeo

1430-1500hrs: "Carbon Footprint and You" by Hassan Ibrahim

1500-1530hrs: "Introduction to Inline Skating and Safety Etiquette" by Jason Ng of Skateline /Skate Assist Volunteer (SAV)

More details on the Clean and Green Singapore website

Saving the Coral Triangle

Officials from six nations and experts meet to draw up conservation plan
Alastair McIndoe, Straits Times 25 Oct 08;

MANILA: Diving in the glittering clear waters off Balicasag Island in the central Philippines, American marine scientist Kent Carpenter marvelled at the pristine coral reefs and grouper fish 'as big as Mini Coopers'.

That was in 1975. A decade later, diving in the same spot, Dr Carpenter was appalled to find the reef dead. The use of dynamite and cyanide by islanders to catch fish had turned an underwater paradise into a ghostly grey wasteland.

Divers visiting the site a few weeks ago found it in the same sorry condition, said Dr Carpenter. He added: 'And this was once one of the most beautiful coral reefs that I'd seen in over 30 years of diving.'

Blighted reefs like Balicasag are strewn across the Coral Triangle, an area of stunning marine biodiversity spanning the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

This expanse of ocean, called the 'Amazon of the Seas', now has one of the world's highest proportions of coral species under threat of extinction - a result of destructive fishing and coastal development, aggravated by climate change.

With the meltdown on financial markets overshadowing the debate on global warming and the environment, why worry about coral reefs right now?

Above all, because they provide a habitat for a quarter of all marine species. Research published four months ago by more than 40 leading marine scientists warned that one-third of the world's reef- building corals face extinction from local activities such as over- fishing, and climate change.

Corals are nature's buffers, protecting coastal communities from soil erosion. And they boost local economies through the tourist dollars spent on scuba-diving.

Against that backdrop, officials from the six Coral Triangle countries and marine experts met in Manila earlier this week to draw up a conservation plan. The initiative, started by Indonesia, is backed by US$450 million (S$680 million) in pledges from governments and multilateral development agencies.

'We can't afford a business- as-usual attitude any longer when the livelihoods of so many people are involved,' said Mr Syamsul Maarif, Indonesia's delegation head.

As a Philippine official put it: 'The initiative is about shared responsibilities; we're not talking about boundaries here.'

The condition of the reefs in the Coral Triangle varies considerably.

Papua New Guinea's were spared from the coral-bleaching effects of the ocean-warming El Nino weather pattern in 1997, and are still over 80 per cent intact.

But only 20 per cent of the coral cover in the Philippines is in good condition. A rapidly growing population concentrated in coastal areas has long put an intolerable strain on marine resources there.

Around 40 per cent of Indonesia's eastern-seaboard reefs are still in top condition.

It takes on average 36 years for a coral reef destroyed by pollution - from sewage discharges, for example - or dynamite fishing to repair itself naturally. Scientists have been trying to accelerate that process.

'There's been encouraging results from re-seeding experiments, but this is an expensive process,' said Dr Edgardo Gomez, a leading expert on corals.

Philippine marine scientist Perry Alino said that more reefs must be declared as sanctuaries, to give them a breather from human activity.

Two decades ago, there were only 250 such sites in the Philippines; now there are over 1,000, though they cover only 0.1 per cent of the country's coral area. The government is targeting 10 per cent coverage by 2020 under the plan.

Indonesia aims to double its current 10 million hectares of marine protected areas in its reefs in the Coral Triangle by 2020.

The conservation plan sets out national and regional actions for protecting and rehabilitating the Coral Triangle. These include setting up more reef protected areas, measures to adapt to climate change and establishing baselines for monitoring.

Leaders of the Coral Triangle countries will be asked to implement the measures at the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia, next May.


'We can't afford a business-as-usual attitude any longer when the livelihoods of so many people are involved.'

Mr Syamsul Maarif, Indonesia's delegation head to a meeting which saw the Coral Triangle countries and marine experts drawing up a conservation plan for the area

Home to thousands of species
THE Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million sq km and spans the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is home to:
  • 75 per cent of known coral species;
  • 30 per cent of the world's coral reefs;
  • Over 600 coral species;
  • Over 3,000 fish species, including 50 per cent of tuna- spawning areas for yellow fin, big eye and skipjack;
  • Six out of eight species of marine turtle;
  • 45 per cent of the world's seagrass species; and
  • 75 per cent of mangrove species.

Related links

Coral Triangle
on the WWF website.