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The Potential of Ocypode Ceratophthalmus (Pallas, 1772) as a Bioindicator of Human Disturbance on Singapore Beaches

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Density and spatial distribution of the burrows of the ghost crab, Ocypode ceratophthalmus (Pallas, 1772) on the wave-washed beaches at Pulau Hantu and East Coast Park, Singapore were studied. Burrow diameter, distance of each burrow from the high water mark, mean sediment compactness, and mean particle sizes of the sediment were compared among nine sites (two island and seven mainland) with different levels of human impact. Lower burrow densities, smaller mean particle size, and more compact sediment were recorded at the more disturbed beaches. Mean burrow densities at the sites without boating activity were higher, regardless of high or low disturbance. Burrow distribution was random at all beaches although more burrows were observed near the low water level on shores with more human activity. Pulau Hantu and East Coast Park had only 0.1% and 7.3% of juvenile burrows, respectively, indicating a low recruitment rate of juvenile ghost crabs. These results provide quantitative evidence that human activities affect the abundance of O. ceratophthalmus, thereby establishing its potential as a bioindicator to assess the extent of human impact on the sandy beaches of Singapore. La densité et la distribution spatiale des terriers (galeries) du crabe, Ocypode ceratophthalmus (Pallas, 1772) sur la partie de la plage battue par les vagues à Palau Hantu et East Coast Park, Singapour ont été étudiées. Le diamètre des galeries, la distance de chaque galerie jusqu'à la limite supérieure atteinte par l'eau, l'indice moyen de compactage du sédiment et la taille moyenne des particules du sédiment ont été comparées entre neuf sites (deux îles et sept en terre ferme) avec différents niveaux d'impact humain. Sur les plages les plus perturbées une plus faible densité de terriers, une taille moyenne des particules plus petite et des sédiments plus compacts ont été observés. La densité moyenne des terriers sur les sites sans navigation a été plus élevée quelque soit le niveau de perturbation. La distribution des terriers a été aléatoire sur toutes les plages bien que plus de terriers ont été observés près du niveau inférieur de l'eau sur les plages avec plus d'activité humaine. Palau Hantu et East Coast Park avaient respectivement seulement 0,1% et 7,3% de terriers de juvéniles, indiquant un taux de recrutement faible pour les juvéniles de ce crabe. Ces résultats apportent l'évidence quantitative que les activités humaines affectent l'abondance de O. ceratophthalmus, établissant ainsi son potentiel comme bio-indicateur pour évaluer l'étendu de l'impact humain sur les plages sableuses de Singapour.

Affiliations: 1: Ecology Lab, Natural Sciences and Science Education, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, 1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616, Rep. of Singapore; 2: Ecology Lab, Natural Sciences and Science Education, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, 1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616, Rep. of Singapore;, Email:


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