22 May 2011

Quiet at Beting Bemban Besar

How nice to see the Leathery sea anemone again!
We're back on Beting Bemban Besar, a very large submerged reef indeed! I last saw the Leathery sea anemone (Heteractis crispa) on this reef in Apr 2010. Kok Sheng saw what might be another of these anemones too!

Beting Bemban Besar lies off Pulau Semakau. We have been visiting this reef several times. I was wondering how it coped with coral bleaching.
At our landing point was a large meadow of seagrasses!
The seagrasses are quite lush in some parts, with all the species commonly seen at Pulau Semakau. Except I didn't come across any Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium) which I saw on my trip in Apr 2010. In some parts though, the seagrasses were 'burnt'.
In the seagrass meadows, I saw several egg ribbons probably laid by nudibranchs. Although I didn't see any nudis, James found a nice big Dendrodoris tuberculosa.
There are still some large hard corals here and there. But I got the sense that the reef was not as lively since our last trip here in May 2010 during the coral bleaching event.
There were lots of Favid corals (Family Faviidae) of all kinds, most were alright although some were rather pale.
I saw many Mole mushroom corals (Polyphyllia talpina). But unlike on our previous trips, I didn't see any live Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae) or Tongue mushroom corals (Herpolitha sp.). All three were seen to be bleaching on our trip in May 2010.
On the reef flats, I saw one or two colonies of Brain coral (Family Mussidae), Plate montipora coral (Montipora sp.), a pretty Favid coral with a maze like pattern, Branching montipora coral (Montipora sp.), Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.), Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) with Small goniopora coral (Goniopora sp.).
I saw four colonies of Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) that were recently dead. One colony that was very pale, and only one small colony that seemed alright.
It was a relief to see a few Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) and many small Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.) colonies that were unbleached. These two species suffered very badly during the coral bleaching event.
There were many small colonies of Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) of various kinds, and many colonies of Asparagus flowery soft coral. There were also many colonies of Blue corals (Heliopora coerulea). I didn't come across any that were bleaching.
I saw one Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) near the seagrasses, and several Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea). Alas, I didn't see any anemone shrimps or 'Nemos' in them. There were also many Frilly sea anemones of various patterns, and some Wiggly reef anemones. But I didn't see any snaky sea anemones (Macrodactyla doreensis) as I did on my previous trip.
Near the seagrasses, I saw some cerianthids (Order Ceriantharia).
As the tide turned, I decided to check out the reef edge facing Pulau Semakau with Swimming Camera. The reef edge here not as densely packed with hard corals as I've seen on other submerged reefs nearby. But still, there are some interesting corals here.
A nice large colony of Bracket mushroom coral.
And one medium sized colony of Moon corals (Diploastrea heliopora).
Here, there were many Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.) colonies of various colours. Most were small colonies.
It was great to see colonies of some special corals such as Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.), Bracket mushroom coral, Ringed plate coral (Pachyseris sp.), Carnation coral (Pectinia sp.). Also common corals such as Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.). Brain coral (Family Mussidae), Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) and Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).
Just before I left, I saw a valve of a dead Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa), and another valve of the Hippopus hippopus, possibly now extinct in Singapore.
There were a few Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) near the seagrasses. And I saw one White-rumped sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora). I didn't have much luck spotting other echinoderms. But Kok Sheng walked all the way to the other end of the huge reef and saw the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that I had seen there in May 2010.
During our trip, I heard the calls of birds and Ivan said they were terns. Here's a lame photo of one of the birds. There was also a pair of Great billed herons, loudly quarreling with one another.
There were also many different kinds of sponges, and the usual assortment of seaweeds. Just before we left, Andy found a squid and the rest found a strange sea cucumber.

Near this reef is Singapore's largest fish farm which is said to cover 2 hectares. Here's part of the farm.
With lots of large cages distributed nearby.
There were also two large oil drilling ships parked near the reef. This area is a designated parking spot for such large rigs where they undergo repairs and maintenance.
This reef seems to be somewhat impacted by fishing. I saw one abandoned crab trap, two fish traps which were already broken and thus empty and a small section of fishing net. Russel saw more fish traps with fishes which he released. He also disabled the traps. As we were leaving, we saw a small boat collecting fish traps from the reef.
I feel that the shore seems a lot less lively than in May 2010 during the bleaching event, and in LinkJune 2009 when I saw a lot more interesting corals. Perhaps the shore has been affected by coral bleaching? Let's hope it can survive the many activities nearby and on the fishing activities on shore. We should regularly stop by to see how it is doing.Link

It's great to have a good team of experienced shore explorers to help cover such a vast reef! In this way, we can get a better sense of the shore even on a short trip. I'm sure they will be posting their sightings soon.

Tomorrow, one more trip to end this rather exhausting series of low spring tide trips. This time, to a part of Sentosa that I've not visited before!

Posts by others on this trip
  • James with the lovely Dendrodoris tuberculosa, corals and colourful marine life and more birds!
  • Russel on facebook with seahorse, Knobbly sea stars, volutes and lots of corals.
  • Rene on facebook with Noble volute, anemones and lovely scenery.
  • Kok Sheng with lots of Knobblies, squids, octopus and more.

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