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Mangrove photo contest winners reveal majesty of these coastal forests

Mangroves at dawn.

  • From a forest goddess protecting honey gatherers to a tiger leaping through mangroves, these are some of the winning images in the 7th annual Mangrove Photography Awards.
  • The annual contest attracted a record number of submissions from 65 countries, but the judges eventually selected the winners which revealed aspects of mangroves from all corners of the earth.
  • Mangroves are marine forests that adorn tropical coasts and are one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems.
  • These forests also play crucial roles in protecting coastlines from erosion and providing communities with resources from food to firewood, and are one of the world’s most effective carbon sinks.

The seventh annual Mangrove Photography Awards attracted a record number of submissions from 65 countries, but the judges eventually selected the winners which revealed aspects of mangroves from all corners of the planet.

Vast and tangled, mangrove forests are one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems: they act as nurseries for fish, rookeries for myriad birds, and rich feeding grounds for creatures ranging from crabs to crocodiles and tigers.

One of the most arresting images is of a leaping tiger, captured dramatically by Arijit Das in India. “After four days of tracking the elusive Bengal tiger, we were finally able to predict where this individual might cross a creek. These big cats have adapted to life in the mangroves, and shadow through creeks and channels in search of prey,” said Das.

Leaping tiger in mangroves. Photo by Arijit Das.

Mangroves are crucial in protecting coastlines from erosion, providing communities with resources like food and firewood, plus protection from storms. Mangroves are also one of the biosphere’s most effective carbon sinks.

Despite their importance and utility, mangrove forests are declining worldwide due to multiple challenges, ranging from climate change to coastal development. The rate of loss is slowing, though, except in Asia, where there’s been a massive increase in deforestation over the past 30 years.

Reflecting on this year’s entries, judge Daisy Gilardini said,It’s easy to overlook the role that mangroves play in a healthy ecosystem. Mangroves don’t just provide shelter and habitat for many species of birds, mammals, fish and crustaceans. They also help protect and preserve shorelines, filter water, and have an extraordinary ability to absorb carbon dioxide — five times more so than tropical rainforests, for example.”

See related: Mangrove restoration done right has clear economic & ecological benefits

A green turtle takes shelter among tangled mangroves in the Bahamas. Photo by Shane Gross.

The Mangrove Photography Awards celebrate mangroves every year on World Mangrove Day. It is the idea of – and is organized by – Mangrove Action Project, a conservation NGO working globally to protect, restore, and educate the public about mangroves.

View all of the winners of this year’s contest at its site, here.

Erik Hoffner is an editor for Mongabay, find him on Twitter via @erikhoffner.

Banner image: Early morning in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Photo by Melodi Roberts.