Best of our wild blogs: 9 Apr 17

Night Walk at Pasir Ris Town Park (07 Apr 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

IPSG Talk @ Deyi Secondary School
Butterflies of Singapore

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Singapore's parks and what you can do in them

Lea Wee, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Apr 17;

You do not have to travel far to be near nature. There are green gems nestled right in your neighbourhood.

The National Parks Board (NParks) manages 350 parks across Singapore and many of them are located near residential estates to provide easy access to green spaces, says Ms Kartini Omar, the board's group director of parks development.

She says: "They provide people with green recreational spaces and enhance the quality of our living environment and are integral to our vision to transform Singapore into a city in a garden."

The Straits Times visits six parks located near residences and finds out what you can do in them.

Zhenghua Nature

Opened in 2002, this nature park in Bukit Panjang skirts around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and serves as its green buffer.

In November 2015, a 3.8ha extension featuring a wide variety of plants expanded the park to 17.3ha.

New facilities added include a pavilion, a multi-purpose lawn, a children's playground, an exercise station, public toilets, shelters, as well as jogging and cycling tracks.

Retiree Grace Wong, 64, who lives in an HDB block nearby, has been going to the park about three times a week since the extension opened. She brisk walks and uses the exercise station.

"I wasn't motivated to exercise before," she says. "But such a beautiful park with exercise facilities so near my place gives me the incentive to do so."

Because of its link to the nature reserve and its diversity of plant life, the park attracts rich wildlife.

Thirty-seven bird species have been spotted there, including the olive-backed sunbird, flameback woodpecker, pink-necked green pigeon, greater racket-tailed drongo and long-tailed parakeet.

Long-tailed macaques, squirrels and monitor lizards are other common sights.

It is also a popular spot for families. Housewife Jade Ng, 44, often goes there with her three teenage children and husband.

They live in an HDB block across the road.

Her husband jogs, her children sometimes fly a kite, while she brisk walks or does yoga.

She says: "There's something for both the young and old here."

Where: Segar Road entrance (nearest LRT station is Segar or Fajar), Bangkit Road entrance (nearest LRT station is Bangkit), Chestnut Avenue entrance (bus numbers 700, 700A and 966)
Lighting hours: 7pm to 7am
Park Yishun Park

Shortly after the launch of Pokemon Go in Singapore, this 13.9ha park made the news as a Pokemon hotspot and hundreds of people gathered there nightly to play the augmented reality game.

The Pokemon fervour has since receded, but the park remains a favourite spot for residents nearby to exercise and relax.

It has two children's playgrounds, one which has a sand pit - an uncommon feature in new Singapore playgrounds.

It also features fitness corners, an amphitheatre and a multi-purpose court.

Built in the mid-1990s over an old rubber estate, the park is home to an array of tropical fruit trees such as durian, rambutan, jackfruit, star fruit, coconut and bread fruit.

There is also the Dipterocarp Arboretum, or a living gallery of dipterocarps, which are a family of giant trees unique to tropical lowland rainforests.

For Yishun residents such as housewife Foo Meng Yock, who is in her 40s, and her son Isaac, seven, the park is a transportation shortcut and a hang-out.

Besides cycling through Yishun Park with her son to take him to school every day, she also takes him there to rollerblade and play badminton.

Occasionally, she also takes her son swimming at the Safra clubhouse, which is located on the park's grounds.

She says: "I am glad that we can do so many different activities so close to home."

Where: A 15-minute walk from Yishun MRT station
Park lighting hours: 7pm to 7am
Tampines Eco Green

Opened in 2011, this ecopark is designed to look like a savannah, with various natural habitats such as marshlands, secondary forests and freshwater ponds.

At 36ha, it is also home to more than 75 species of birds, 20 species of dragonflies, 35 species of butterflies and 32 species of spiders.

It has many eco-friendly features including benches and signage made from recycled tree trunks.

Three bird hides, created with recycled twigs and branches, are used to shield birdwatchers so they do not disturb the birds.

Instead of a concrete footpath, the walking trails are covered with creeping grass. The park also features the first flush-free ecotoilet in public parks here. This converts human waste into compost using bacteria and wood shavings.

After checking out three to four parks in the east last year, Upper Changi resident Yong Caiwen, 34, a mother of two, chose Tampines Eco Green as the site for a child-led nature play group that she was facilitating, called Nature Play East Singapore.

"The park has hardly any signs of urbanisation and you find yourself engulfed by nature. It is also shady and there are bodies of water where children can observe pondlife."

She also appreciates that the park does not allow cyclists or pets because "this brings a very different feel to the environment".

She adds: "It's also accessible by public transport."

Where: Alight at Tampines MRT station and walk 20 minutes to the park via Sun Plaza Park
Lighting hours: No lighting after dark
Sembawang Park

Tucked away in the northern corner of Singapore facing the Johor Straits, this park features one of the few remaining natural beaches in Singapore.

The park, which is laid out on undulating terrain, also offers visitors a glimpse of Singapore's colonial past.

The Sembawang Naval Base was developed there by the British in the 1920s to 1930s.

Some remnants from that era remain.

For example, the walkways in the park are restored old pathways used during the British occupation.

The Sembawang jetty was built by the British and later completed by the Japanese.

It is now a favourite spot for anglers to hang out.

Overlooking the jetty is Beaulieu House, built around 1910 as a private seaside retreat and later occupied by the British during the naval base years.

It now houses a restaurant, which serves Chinese seafood, Western cuisine and local delights.

In 2011, the 15ha park underwent an upgrading.

New amenities include a promenade, a fitness area and barbecue pits.

The old playground was replaced by a new one built in the form of a battleship, to tie in with the park's past as a naval base.

Sembawang resident and heritage blogger Jerome Lim, 52, says the park has been a special place for him since his childhood days.

"The jetty in the old days was quite different, without railings. I spent many nights there as a child fishing for crabs - something I continued to do into my late teens."

The jetty remains his favourite spot and he still visits the park about once a week "for the calm that the park and the sea provides".

He says: "It is also a great place to catch the sunrise."

Where: At the end of Sembawang Road. It can be reached by bus number 882. The nearest MRT station is Sembawang
Park lighting hours: 7pm to 7am
Jurong Central Park

Jurong Central Park brings a new twist to the board game experience.

At its snakes and ladders playground, the pavement on the ground is marked with numbers and players move through the playground based on the number they "roll".

When players land on a ladder, they have to climb across an obstacle to a higher number. When they land on a "snake", they have to go down a slide to a lower number. The first player to reach the number 100 wins.

Meanwhile, the Ludo Garden features a life-sized Ludo board game and players act as the "pieces" that move around on the board.

Instructions on how to play both games can be found at the park.

Opened in 2007, Jurong Central Park was the first park here to have life-sized board game features.

Nature lovers can also explore and discover the various types of aquatic plants, wildlife species and dragonflies that thrive in the ponds.

The park is also popular among serious runners such as Mr Lim Yanglyn. The salesman in his 30s trains there twice a week with members of the Jurong Safra Running Club, which is located next to the park.

He says: "I like that there is enough space here to accommodate both serious runners and those who run for leisure."

Where: Jurong Central Park is situated across Boon Lay MRT station.
Park lighting hours: 7pm to 7am
Pasir Ris Town Park

A 3ha seawater fishing pond can be found at this park, which is full of mature shady trees.

There are also smaller ponds for catching crabs and prawns. By the ponds are two bistro-bars and a halal seafood restaurant, Warong Kim's Seafood, that are popular at night.

The ponds and the restaurants were opened by D'Best Fishing in August 2014.

Seamstress Romnah Omar, 53, has been living in the HDB block across the road with her family since 1992 and can see part of the park from her flat.

She says: "The park used to be more quiet in the past but has become more commercialised."

In the past, she used to go there with her children, now aged 23 and 27. Nowadays, she goes alone or with her friends to exercise.

She also enjoys having dinner with her friends at Warong Kim's Seafood after work.

"The food is good and reasonably priced. It's a nice alternative to the malls. It's more quiet and peaceful. You can see people fishing or prawning and children running on the grass."

Where: Opposite Pasir Ris MRT station
Lighting hours: 7pm to 7am

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Malaysia: Bee colony decline a concern, study needed -- Sabah Deputy CM

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin has urged the Agriculture Department and relevant agencies to study the actual cause for the collapse of the bee colony, particularly the Apis Cerana species, which has caused a decline in the production of honey in the state.
Bernama New Straits Times 8 Apr 17;

KUDAT: Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin has urged the Agriculture Department and relevant agencies to study the actual cause for the collapse of the bee colony, particularly the Apis Cerana species, which has caused a decline in the production of honey in the state.

He said, there were many assumptions to the phenomenon, some said it was linked to climate change and the rapid clearing of land to make way for commercial farming.

"Throughout the 10th Malaysia Plan, the production of local honey has drastically dropped which is caused by bees leaving their hives or disappearing for no apparent reason. This instance is similar to the 'Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)' occurring in most western countries.

"Thus, I greatly hope that the Agriculture Department and relevant agencies would study on the issue to ensure the sustainability of the bee farming industry, while increasing the production of pure honey in the state," he said.

Yahya, who is also Sabah Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry, said this in his speech text that was read by state Agriculture and Food Industry Assistant Minister Datuk Haji Musbah Jamli at the launching ceremony of the Borneo Honeybee Centre (BHBC), in Sikuati, near here today.

In the effort to further enhance the honey industry in the state, Yahya also urged relevant departments to enforce present laws to monitor unplanned agricultural activities that affect the environment, ensuring that the habitat for bee farming is protected.

"As forests are the natural habitat of bees, thus, we also need to increase public awareness on the importance of conserving the environment, especially in preserving tropical forests. If not, plants and forest trees will be destroyed, resulting in the bee's food source to decline and affecting the production of honey," he said.

Yahya said, although there were signs of the return of Apis Cerana bees, Koperasi Pembangunan Desa (KPD) should spearhead a new industry related to honey bees.

"Lately, the kelulut or trigona honey (stingless bee honey) has showed encouraging potential in the honey production industry, and many rural residents have also shown interest to take up bee farming.

"Thus, focus should be given on the development of the kelulut honey industry as it is easier to manage and the price is higher compared to other types of honey," he said. - BERNAMA

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Indonesia, China explore cooperation to construct four reservoirs

Antara 7 Apr 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and China are exploring the possibility of establishing cooperation to build four reservoirs worth Rp4.5 trillion, or about US$337.6 million.

"The Pelosika Reservoir in Southeast Sulawesi Province, Rokan Kiri (Lompatan Harimau) Reservoir in Riau Province, Jenelata Reservoir in South Sulawesi Province, and Riam Kiwa Reservoir in South Kalimantan Province have been selected," Indonesias Minister of Public Works and Housing Basuki Hadimuljono stated after receiving Chinas Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei, who was accompanied by Ambassador of China to Indonesia Xie Feng here, Thursday (Apr 6).

The Pelosika Reservoir is expected to provide water for irrigating 16,358 hectares area of land as well as up to 0.2 cubic meters per second of water. The reservoir in Southeast Sulawesi also has the potential to generate 21 megawatts (MW) of power.

Meanwhile, the Rokan Kiri Reservoir would be beneficial for irrigating an area of about four thousand hectares, providing water, controlling floods, and generating 74.4 MW of power.

The Jenelata Reservoir in South Sulawesi has a capacity of 223 million cubic meters and could provide electricity to Gowa and Makassar. The reservoir is expected to irrigate an area of 24,400 hectares of rice fields and reduce flooding in Gowa District.

The Riam Kiwa Reservoir, with a capacity of 127 million cubic meters, is expected to irrigate up to five thousand hectares of land, supply 0.1 cubic meters per second of water, and function as a power plant, with a capacity of 2.7 MW.

Meanwhile, Minister Lei said the relationship between Indonesia and China is running smoothly, and he will consider the offer to establish cooperation.

"These projects are good and will contribute significantly to water management in Indonesia. Of course, we will consider it seriously," Lei affirmed.

Director General of Water Resources at the Ministry Imam Santoso said the four reservoirs were selected to receive funding from China, as they have huge power generation potential.

"China wants to participate in the construction of the multipurpose reservoirs, with high capacity, in the outer Java islands. In addition, they want to study the geology and gain other knowledge outside Java," Santoso added.(*)

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Seagrasses in Australian world heritage site has not recovered years after heat wave

Mote Marine Laboratory Science Daily 5 Apr 17;

Massive seagrass beds in Western Australia's Shark Bay -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- haven't recovered much from the devastating heat wave of 2011, according to a new study demonstrating how certain vital ecosystems may change drastically in a warming climate.

The peer-reviewed study, published recently in Marine Ecology Progress Series, was led by Dr. Rob Nowicki, a Mote Marine Laboratory Postdoctoral Research Fellow who conducted the fieldwork while earning his doctorate from Florida International University (FIU). Dr. Michael Heithaus, Dean of FIU's College of Arts & Sciences, and colleagues from multiple institutions have studied Shark Bay's ecosystem for more than 20 years. The current study included partners from FIU, Deakin University in Australia and Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Shark Bay earned its World Heritage status, in part, because of its 1,853 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) of seagrass beds, which UNESCO's website calls the "richest in the world." This vast, subtropical ecosystem hosts thousands of large sharks, other fish, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and a critical population of dugongs, plant-eating mammals related to manatees.

"We were studying a relatively pristine ecosystem, but in summer 2011 we had the hottest water temperatures on record at the time, and we saw 70-90 percent losses of seagrasses at our study sites; no one expected it to be that bad," Nowicki said. "After our colleagues documented the losses, we wanted to know how much the ecosystem might recover over a few years. If you take a punch and get up quickly, you're ready for the next punch. But our study has suggested this system took a punch, and in the short term, it has not gotten back up."

The researchers surveyed 63 sites in Shark Bay four times between 2012 and 2014 to assess seagrass recovery and changes. Before the heat wave, many sites were dominated by the temperate seagrass known as "wireweed" (Amphibolis antarctica), whose dense and tall thickets provide ample food and shelter for numerous species. The heat wave drastically thinned many wireweed beds, and in many places their rhizomes (underground stems) blackened and died, leaving bare sand.

The new study showed that surviving A. antarctica beds appeared stable but didn't reclaim much turf. Instead, the tropical seagrass Halodule uninervis, a close relative of the shoalgrass native to Florida, began filling the gaps. H. uninvervis was spotted at 2 percent of sites in 2012, but had expanded to almost 30 percent of them by 2014.

"The seagrass hit hard was the most common species -- and was dense like a mini forest," said Heithaus, doctoral advisor to Nowicki and co-author of the study. "Losing that cover is really huge; it's like going from a bushland in Africa to a well-mowed lawn.

Losing that much structure has consequences. "After the die-off, we also saw water clarity go down a ton," Nowicki said. Fewer seagrasses were available to trap sediments, and decaying seagrass may have nourished a bloom of microscopic algae observed in 2014. Study authors say these consequences aren't surprising, given the valuable ecosystem services healthy seagrass beds provide.

Seagrass beds stabilize sediments, preventing erosion and clarifying water. More seagrass biomass can store more carbon dioxide, decreasing its availability to harm ecosystems through climate change and ocean acidification. Dense seagrass beds are also critical for economically important fisheries. Seagrass meadows are valued at $1.9 trillion worldwide just for their role in cycling nutrients, according to a 2009 study by others in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. However, major seagrass ecosystems around the world have declined by about 7 percent per year since 1990, reminiscent of declines in coral reefs and other critical ecosystems.

In Shark Bay, beds of slow-growing A. antarctica seagrass may struggle to recover further, the study suggests. Shark Bay, located where temperate and tropical ecosystems overlap, is among the warmest areas that A. antarctica can occupy, and extreme warm temperatures are predicted to become more common with climate change.

Because of its temperate-tropical overlap, Shark Bay has a diverse group of about 12 seagrass species -- roughly twice as many as the entire state of Florida. Its diversity survives, along with other key features that helped earn the site's World Heritage status.

It's critical to continue investigating how the recent loss of some seagrass, a basis of the marine food web, will affect plant-eating animals and their predators in Shark Bay.

Some take-home messages are clear: It's critical to monitor ecosystems well after a disturbance; they're not guaranteed to bounce back. "It shows the importance of these long-term, comprehensive, ecosystem-level studies," said Heithaus, referring to team efforts to study Shark Bay. "If we hadn't been doing this since 1997 we wouldn't have had the baseline data to know that the declines were a big deal."

Also, if relatively pristine seagrass beds of Shark Bay are vulnerable to extreme weather, then it's unclear how seagrass beds damaged by human activity will fare in the coming decades.

Nowicki says that minimizing local stressors, such as nutrient pollution from fertilizer runoff into bays and estuaries, may give seagrasses better odds amid climate change and other global stressors.

Said Nowicki: "If Shark Bay had poorer water quality, we might have lost a lot more."

Journal Reference:

RJ Nowicki, JA Thomson, DA Burkholder, JW Fourqurean, MR Heithaus. Predicting seagrass recovery times and their implications following an extreme climate event. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2017; 567: 79 DOI: 10.3354/meps12029

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