The importance of seagrass

Singapore scientists, volunteers monitor seagrass health

(Above) A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.
(Above) A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.
(Clockwise from above) A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.
A feather star and a knobbly sea star (above) , both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.PHOTOS: DAVID LANE, THE NAKED HERMIT CRABS, WILD SINGAPORE
(Clockwise from above) A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.
A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse (above), which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.PHOTOS: DAVID LANE, THE NAKED HERMIT CRABS, WILD SINGAPORE
(Clockwise from above) A feather star and a knobbly sea star, both at Cyrene Reef, and an estuarine seahorse, which can be found all around Singapore. These animals live in seagrass habitats, which contain rich marine biodiversity.
The sea slug (above) is mostly found in seagrass meadows, coral rubble and reefs. Several families of this type of sea slug, called nudibranchs, have been recorded in Singapore. The pygmy squid which measures about 1cm to 2cm, feeds on small crustaceans among seagrasses.PHOTOS: DAVID LANE, THE NAKED HERMIT CRABS, WILD SINGAPORE
The sea slug (left, top) is mostly found in seagrass meadows, coral rubble and reefs. Several families of this type of sea slug, called nudibranchs, have been recorded in Singapore. The pygmy squid (left, below), which measures about 1cm to 2cm, feed
The sea slug is mostly found in seagrass meadows, coral rubble and reefs. Several families of this type of sea slug, called nudibranchs, have been recorded in Singapore. The pygmy squid (above) which measures about 1cm to 2cm, feeds on small crustaceans among seagrasses.PHOTOS: TOH CHAY HOON, RON YEO

Apart from being a source of food for herbivores, seagrass meadows are nurseries for juvenile animals such as crabs, shrimps and fishes. The structural complexity of seagrasses makes seagrass meadows areas of rich marine biodiversity.

There are a total of 12 species of seagrasses in Singapore, out of 23 in the Indo-Pacific region, and their habitats can be found both on the northern and southern shores of the island.

Animals associated with seagrass habitats include sea stars, seahorses, crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and snails. TeamSeagrass, a group of volunteers, conducts frequent seagrass monitoring at six locations - Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau, Cyrene Reef, Sentosa, Labrador Beach and Tuas. The information collected is shared with Seagrass-Watch, an international monitoring programme for seagrasses.

Like much of the country's natural heritage, seagrass meadows have been in decline for decades, with around 40 per cent of the original cover lost to coastal development. Since 2007, scientists and volunteers have regularly monitored them for their health.

 

A three-year research project, which ends in the middle of next year, intends to better understand the dispersal patterns of seagrasses, in addition to assessing how resilient they are in the face of various stressors.

Source: National Parks Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore scientists, volunteers monitor seagrass health'. Print Edition | Subscribe