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