8 No 1
Bird watching techniques
A place in space:
Gems of the park: volunteers
at the park
of a nature warden
Pneumatophores (erect, asparagus-, peg- or torpedo-shaped) are respiratory roots belonging to Avicennia sp., Sonneratia sp. and Xylocarpus moluccensis. In the former species, the roots are pencil-like arising upright from massive subterranean cable roots system into the outer environment. When not inundated these roots are able to breathe. The pneumatophores produce an extensive net of fine nutrition roots that can also assimilate oxygen from the uppermost mud layer. A close examination at the pneumatophores will reveal the presence of barnacles, molluscs and algae on its exterior. A myriad of crustaceans, mudskippers and fishes also treat the site as feeding or play-ground.
Prop roots in Rhizophora sp., Avicennia sp. and Acanthus ilicifolius are unbranched adventitious roots growing downwards from branches or the canopy to the bottom. Unlike stilt roots, these aerial roots are of uniform thickness and flexibility and will not root on reaching the ground. They, however, lend support to the tree.
Surface roots occur in Excoecaria agallocha, Aegicceras corniculatum and Cebera sp. The network of spreading surface roots is able to absorb sufficient oxygen during low tidal exposures.
Finally, plank roots, which are thin, branched, ribbon-like buttresses spreading out from the base of its trunk also aid in the aeration of Xylocarpus granatum and Heritiera littoralis.
It is therefore imperative for the survival of mangroves that oil pollution on a large scale must not occur, as breathing roots when coated will suffer from dire physiological consequences. For to err is human, to breathe... simply divine!
Do look out for these mangrove plants on your next visit to the Park. You would he amazed at the intricate structure and inherent beauty of these "breathing roots".
© Sungei Buloh Nature Park