Dec 13, 2006

Indoor Orientation: 13 Jan 07 (Sat) 2-5pm and 19 Jan 07 (Fri) 7.30-10pm

To kick start Seagrass Watch and TeamSeagrass, we are planning Indoor Orientation followed by Field Orientation sessions in January.

Indoor Orientation
13 Jan 07 (Sat) 2pm-5pm
19 Jan 07 (Fri) 7.30pm –10pm

Field Orientation
20 Jan (Sat): Chek Jawa depart Changi Village jetty 1600hrs end 2000hrs
21 Jan (Sun): Pulau Sekudu depart Changi Village jetty 1730hrs end 2030hrs
More on how to get there on Watch Locations

Only those who have attended the Indoor Orientation will be allowed to attend the Field Orientation. This is for your safety. You will only need to attend one Indoor Session.

We hope to get ready for Real Watch sessions when the super low tides start in Mar 07!

Here's what happened at the last Indoor Orientation session for the Sentosa transect

Indoor Orientation Programme
13 Jan 07 (Sat)/19 Jan 07 (Fri)

2pm/7.30pm: We got seagrass meh? by Ria
Introduction to the shores we're going to monitor and other surprising things about your shores

2.15pm/7.45pm: Seagrass Science by Siti
Introduction to seagrasses, identification, recording techniques

3.15pm/8.45pm: Break

3.30pm/9pm: Seagrass Samba by everyone
Practice setting up, try out the monitoring methods and taking photos. Usually results in a quite a dance-about as we figure things out :-)

4.45pm/9.45pm: Seagrass Safety by Ria
Safety and logistics: getting there and back in one piece--both you and the seagrasses.

5pm/10pm: End

Venue: NParks Peirce Road Multi-Purpose Hall, Peirce Road Depot
Peirce Road off Holland Road
(near the place where they sell durians in the carpark)These is free parking at the depot, pls park in an orderly manner.

Getting there by public transport
1) From Orchard MRT Station, go to the bus stop at Orchard Boulevard
2) Buses to take: 77, 174, 106, 123, 7
3) Get off at the third bus stop AFTER the Gleneagles Hospital/Botanic Gardens bus stop
4) From the bus stop walk towards the traffic light and you will see the signboard at Peirce Road that says National Parks Board. The entrance to the Depot is about 200m down Peirce Road on your left.

Please BE PUNCTUAL so we can start on time and end on time. Punctuality is critical in all TeamSeagrass activities as they are tide dependent. And time and tide waits for no one :-)

Bring a note-book to take notes during the session.

Sign up for TeamSeagrass
(a) your full name
(b) your age
(c) your email address
(d) your contact number
(e) any previous experience in field work, outdoor nature activities, volunteering in nature work, with which groups? (it's OK if you don't have any)
(f) Which Indoor Orientation session will you attend?
(g) Which Field Orientation sessions will you attend?

to Ria at
(pls put "teamseagrass" in the subject line, this email gets a lot of spam)

Please read the FAQs on TeamSeagrass before emailing me questions.

New seagrass growing techniques

We should appreciate our seagrasses! Don't wait until they are wiped out!

University of Delaware 11 Dec 06
New eelgrass growing techniques would help bays
Article by Tracey Bryant
full article on wildsingapore wildnews

Extracts ...

Before disease decimated it years ago, eelgrass thrived around the globe in estuaries like Delaware's Inland Bays.

The sea-dwelling plant provides food and habitat for crabs, fish and waterfowl. It improves water quality by removing excess nutrients from the water and stabilizes the bay bottom as its long, ribbon-like leaves trap floating particles of sediment.

Environmental managers would like to get their hands on more eelgrass for bay restoration projects. But it's not as easy as going out and buying a bag of grass seed or a flat of plants at your local garden center. At least not yet.

“Eelgrass is a cold-water plant that was once widely distributed,” Gallagher said. “Then in the 1930s, there was a worldwide die-off of the plant due to wasting disease”.

This disease is thought to be caused by a slime mold that attacks the plant's leaves. The loss of the once-prolific eelgrass set off a chain reaction of serious impacts, including the starvation of large numbers of brant, a species of waterfowl that relies on the plant as a primary food source.

While eelgrass populations have rebounded in some locations over the years, restoration efforts have been essential to the plant's recovery elsewhere, particularly in areas that have undergone significant environmental degradation due to increased nutrient inputs, erosion and other stresses, Gallagher said.

However, the restoration process often is slow due to the scarcity of plant material. Currently, environmental managers must harvest seeds from eelgrass growing in the wild or dig up plants from healthy beds for transplant to new beds.

Currently, the UD research team is working on two methods for propagating eelgrass.

Dec 1, 2006

Seagrass-Watch Newsletter is out!

The Nov/Dec 2006 issue of the Seagrass-Watch Newsletter is in print and can be found on the Seagrass-Watch website.

Download the pdf to read the articles about TeamSeagrass and Chek Jawa and other seagrass news.

Here's some excepts about TeamSeagrass...and how TeamSeagrass got started...... and more seagrass adventures ahead!There's also an interesting article about seagrasses and sunburn in this issue.

Nov 30, 2006

Scientists: Seagrass Ecosystems at a 'Global Crisis'

Scientists: Seagrass Ecosystems at a 'Global Crisis';
Elevating Public Awareness 'Critical' News Service 1 Dec 06

full article on wildsingapore

Extracts ...

Among its findings, the study analyzed an apparent disconnect between the scientific community’s concerns over seagrass habitat and its coverage in the popular media.

While recent studies rank seagrass as one of the most valuable habitat in coastal systems, media coverage of other habitats – including salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs – receive 3 to 100-fold more media attention than seagrass systems.

"Elevating public awareness about this impending crisis is critical to averting it."

"This report is a call to the world’s coastal managers that we need to do more to protect seagrass habitat"

Referring to "A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems" by Dr. William Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Dr. Robert Orth of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Dr. Tim Carruthers of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, published in the December issue of Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)

You CAN make a difference for our Singapore's seagrass habitats!

Join TeamSeagrass!
see FAQs about TeamSeagrass for more details on what it's about and how to join.

Nov 23, 2006

Semakau (22 Nov 06)

An amphibious landing on Semakau was achieved by the intrepid TeamSeagrass! With a very obliging boatman at the helm, we managed to get off onto the seagrass meadows without having to swim. In the desultory drizzle, the vast meadows of Semakau was quite romantic.Shufen brought walkie-talkies! Siti is delighted. The rest of us are regaled by details of seagrasses and measurements as the walkie talks echo across the flats.

The Team works relentlessly. Examining everything closely, against the light and on the ground.

Seagrasses are important nurseries for sea creatures.
Mama Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis) is a large snail with a handsome orange-spotted body. She has just laid an egg case (see the lumpy thing on the right?).

Teeny tiny fishies swarm in the meadows. Almost too tiny to see now, they might grow up to be delicious seafood.
There were succulent egg cases too, possibly of octopus.

Giant sea anemones nestle among the seagrasses (the large furry-looking thing on the upper right). Mushroom corals are also plentiful (the little pom pom on the lower left). These corals with fat white-tipped tentacles are often mistaken for anemones. Their long tentacles obscure the hard sekeleton. Little shrimps are sometimes found among the tentacles.
Semakau has magnificent reefs too. Despite the proximity of gigantic petrochemical plants, and our landfill, Semakau's reefs are very much alive.
Semakau's vast reefs have a dazzling variety of hard corals.
Corals are animals. To be specific, they are colonies of tiny animals called polyps. Each polyp produces a hard cup to live in, and the joined up skeletons of countless polyps create massive reefs! If you take a closer look, you can see the tiny animals in a hard coral. They have tentacles like sea anemones. It's amazing that such small delicate animals create the bewildering variety of designs and shapes of hard corals.Large soft corals are also abundant on the shores. These are colonial animals too, but instead of a hard skeleton, they share a leathery common tissue. Some look like fried eggs, others like discarded surgical gloves.
Of course there were lots of seagrasses. Long Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) dominates the shores, spreading out for kilometres. Amongst them, tiny Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), skinny Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.), flat Ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata) and the tubular Syringodium which is not seen elsewhere.

Later when we got back together, Colin showed us a photo of a small but very fleshy Giant is so cute!
Rain or shine, we go when it's low!
And TeamSeagrass always has a good time on the shore.

Next trip is in mid-December. Details will be posted to those on the TeamSeagrass mailing list.

To join TeamSeagrass see this blog's FAQs.

Nov 9, 2006

Chek Jawa (8 Nov 06)

Teamseagrass was back in booties on the shore to check out Chek Jawa on Wednesday, 8 Nov 06.
Robert and Jackie of Ubin NParks accompanied us to this humungous seagrass meadow.

We measured up a possible plot in the middle of the lagoon to include the largest patch of Ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) that we've yet seen on our shores.

Another possible plot, nearer the low water mark. The 50m tape sure looks puny and short on this huge shore!
Teamseagrass was particularly facinated by the very large and very healthy Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) found on Chek Jawa. These large leaves are the perfect place for small animals to lay their eggs, like the yellow coil in the photo. Of course, there were lots of other seagrasses too. Including the thin and narrow Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) and the pretty Fern seagrass (Halophila spinolusa).

Siti remarked that the Fern seagrasses look somewhat chewed on and missing leaflets, leaving only bare stems. Indeed, something important to monitor during seagrass watch.

Chek Jawa is Echinoderm Heaven. Sand dollars and sea stars abound. For the first time in the longest while, I came across the yellow-and-pink Warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps). This is quite different from the more commonly encountered Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis).

No visit to Chek Jawa is complete without a good gawk at the hundreds of Button snails (Umbonium vestiarum) that lie buried just beneath the sand surface. Incredibly, many square metres of the Northern sand bar are pock-marked with these tiny snails. Each in delicate pastel patterns, no two are alike!

Chek Jawa will indeed be a fascinating and important area to include in our seagrass watch monitoring programme.

Siti's note: Chek Jawa is one of the most extensive intertidal seagrass meadows we have in Singapore (the other being the one at Pulau Semakau). The meadow is composed of a different suite of seagrass species, which implies that the dynamics and processes of the Chek Jawa seagrass meadow are subtly different. We're really pleased that Ubin NParks has agreed to let us have Chek Jawa on our list of monitoring areas. No doubt regular monitoring will help us understand the distribution and dynamics of seagrass beds in Singapore better.

Merawang Beacon, Tuas (6 Nov 06)

Teamseagrass did a quick recce of this narrow but splendid shore on Monday, 6 Nov 06.

We were met by Anthony, Helen and Sheryl, staff of Schering Plough, the company whose property fronts this shore. Schering Plough has adopted the shore and are already working with CHIJ students on a shore project. They kindly provided access through their grounds to the shore.

In answer to Siti's wish, there were indeed steps down the seawall to the shore!! We are most impressed.

Because of sensitive equipment being used at the company, we couldn't use our handphones.

So walkie talkies were kindly provided to us.

Which was a great thrill for Siti to use, no doubt to the amusement of everyone else on Channel One.

"Seagrass Here!!" Siti announces. And indeed, there's plenty of seagrasses on the shore.

There's lots of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis). And even a small clump of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).

We meandered our way out to Merawang Beacon where the best of this relatively untouched shores is found.
A soft coral garden blossoms there! These colourful plant-like lifeforms are actually animals.

The ground is alive and thick with all manner of creatures.

Along the way, we spot large carpet anemones. Small hard corals are also settling there.

It seems to be the season for sea hares. They were everywhere. These large slugs squirt out a purple dye when they are annoyed.

The rarely seen Tiger moonsnail is quite common on this shore.
A large Melogena snail was also seen laying her typical eggcases.

But for me, the most incredible find were these tiny Clithon snails. I have not seen them yet on any other shore. These delicate snails come in a mind-boggling array of intricate designs. Each looks like it was decorated patiently with a fine black marker pen!

We'll certainly want to include this fabulous shore for seagrass watch!

Oct 26, 2006

Seagrasses in a nutshell

So we've given you a sneak peak of the many species of seagrasses found in Singapore waters and we've got the FAQs covered, save perhaps, THE most frequently asked question:

What on earth is a seagrass?

Seagrasses are marine flowering plants and are sometimes better known as dugong feed. They are often mistaken for seaweed or algae. However, unlike algae, seagrasses are unique in that they have flowers, bear fruit and produce seeds. Seagrasses complete their entire life-cycle immersed in water, with the exception of Enhalus, which must emerge to the surface of the water to reproduce.

Seagrasses also have a system of roots (rhizomes), stems and leaves, which are used for various functions including anchoring, photosyntheis (food production) and transport of nutrients and energy. They are often found growing in sandy or muddy substrates from which they obtain their nutrients. This is unlike algae, which derives its nutrients directly from the water column.

Although they can look very similar to their terrestrial namesakes, seagrasses are actually more closely related to lilies and gingers than to the grasses found on land.

More about seagrasses

Seagrasses are found in a range of coastal habitats, but Seagrass meadows are typically found in shallow, soft-bottomed areas. In Singapore, Chek Jawa (on Pulau Ubin) and Pulau Semakau have by far, the largest meadows with the highest diversity of seagrasses.

The different species of seagrasses favour different growth conditions. For example, Halophila ovalis (spoon seagrass) grows pretty much everywhere in Singapore. They're very hardy and often all it takes for them to grow is seawater, sand and not too much wave action. However, these often scoffed at little guys (they are often met on recce trips with a "Aiyah... ovalis again?") pave the way for other species of seagrasses to colonise the area because they improve surrounding conditions by stabalizing and increasing Nitrogen availability in the sediment.

On the other hand, we have Enhalus acoroides (tall tape/ribbon seagrass) which prefers harder areas (by harder, I mean you don't sink in and fall on your behind... as much) and are often found in small clumps in between coral rubble (on the far side of Chek Jawa) or on rocky shores (Labrador Beach and Sentosa).

Ask not what the seagrasses can do for you, but what YOU can do for the seagrasses

Not convinced you should help out? Well what if I tell you that seagrasses are extremely useful and productive habitats? In addition to stabalising coastal sediment, seagrass meadows on reef flats and near estuaries act as a buffer zone, filtering nutrient and chemical input into the marine environment. They also provide food, shelter and nursery grounds for a vast variety of organisms including molluscs, crustaceans (prawns, shrimp and crabs) and fishes (both the kind you eat (commercial species) and the kind you like looking at (reef fishes)).

Long term monitoring of seagrass habitats helps us understand the dynamics of these habitats and whether changes in distribution, cover and species composition are part of a natural process or the result of human influence. Data from regular monitoring also helps in coastal management.

So what can you do for our local seagrasses? Join team seagrass! You're guaranteed lots of fresh air, salt water, laughs and memories to last you if not a lifetime, then at least till the next monitoring session.

Seagrass Watch people: who are they?

Who are the other people involved in Seagrass Watch around the world?

Here's some photos from the Seagrass-Watch website

From Australia ...

From Fiji (left)
... and JB (right).
That's right! Johor Baru just across the Straits! In the photo is Len McKenzie (in light blue) from Seagrass-Watch HQ. Next to him is Choo Chee Kuang, who has been working relentlessly on seahorse conservation in Malaysia. More about Choo Chee Kuang and the seahorses on his Save our Seahorses website

...and there's even an entry for Chek Jawa!

Visit the Seagrass-Watch gallery for more photos!

Oct 25, 2006

Seagrasses of Singapore

See our updated page on this topic!

Several fascinating species of seagrasses grow on our shores. Here's a quick introduction to all the species that can be found in Singapore.Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) is the longest seagrass found on our shores. The leaf blade is 1-2cm wide and can be 1.5m long! Pulau Semakau has vast tracts of Tape seagrass meadows that stretch for kilometres!

Male flowers of the Tape seagrass are tiny (see the small white bits?). They form in a bract that grows at the base of the plant. During a bloom of Tape seagrass, little 'rafts' of male flowers are often seen floating on the water. They look like little bits of styrofoam!

Female flowers are large and emerge on long coiled stalks. The pale yellowish petals last only for a day or so. Often, all that is seen are the V-shaped bracts. Soon, the large fruit develops. It is a hairy capsule that holds several seeds. The seeds are said to be edible and are eaten by some coastal dwellers. The raw seeds are said to taste like chestnuts.

There are several species of Halophila seagrasses. Some have oval leaves and thus called Spoon seagrasses. The various species of oval-shaped Halophila are difficult to differentiate in the field, so all of them are generally referred to as Halophila ovalis complex. These seagrasses are the most commonly encountered on many of our shores.

The beautiful Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa) is made up of many little leaflets. Usually a bright green, sometimes with a bluish tint, this seagrass is widespread on Chek Jawa.

Singapore is home to the delicate Beccarri's seagrass (Halophila beccarrii). The tiny leaves of this seagrass emerges in a rosette of 4-5 leaves. Elsewhere in the world, this seagrass is considered rare. But it is quite commonly seen on Chek Jawa.

There is a large patch of ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) on Chek Jawa. This elegant seagrass is narrower and not as long as Tape seagrass.
Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) is long, narrow and well, needle-like. On Chek Jawa they are lush and long. Elsewhere, they may be much shorter.

Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) is indeed sickle-shaped. A lush meadow of this seagrass grows on Labrador, the last on our mainland.

Sickle seagrass has little flowers with curly 'whiskers'.

Syringodium isoetifolium is a strange seagrass. Its leaf blade is cylindrical, like plastic tubing! It is commonly seen (so far) only on Pulau Semakau.

Our job for Seagrass Watch is to look out for all these wonderful plants on our shores. And to monitor their growth.

I can't wait to start!

FAQ for TeamSeagrass

Please see details on this blog page.

Apologies for the re-direct.

Watch locations: where?

Please see details on this blog page.

Apologies for the re-direct.

Watch preparations

Please see details on this blog page.

Apologies for the re-direct.