The Mangrove Photography Awards are an annual international photography competition which aims to shine a light on one of our most vital ecosystems; mangrove forests.
It contains a variety of sections such as mangrove landscape and mangrove and wildlife. The competition is now in its 8th year and the photography captures the relationship between the wildlife, the coastal communities and the forests, illustrating the fragility of these phenomenal ecosystems. More than 2000 images were submitted from 68 countries revealing fascinating close ups into the world mangroves whilst also urging us to consider our responsibility to protect them.
Mangroves are a type of tropical plant found in the coastal intertidal zones in over 118 tropical and subtropical countries in the world. There are over 80 types of mangroves species globally and they all thrive in salty and low oxygen environments.
They are one of the few species of tree that can tolerate saltwater as they have evolved to filter out the majority of the salt from the water that their dense roots are submerged in. These tangles of roots give the mangroves the illusion that they are propped on stilts above the water but this is what allows them to withstand the rise and fall of tidal water.
These unique trees are a crucial part of our ecosystem but they are fast disappearing, the mangrove forests that once spanned from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Mexico are now almost completely gone. This disappearance was driven by land conversion into agriculture such as cattle but also the rising sea levels due to climate change. But why are they so important?
Most significantly, they are incredible at storing carbon. One acre of mangrove forest absorbing nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide as an acre of the amazon rainforest, which is one of the worlds biggest carbon sinks. In comparison to northern hemisphere trees they can absorb 5 times more carbon per hectare. The carbon captured is called ‘blue carbon’ as mangrove forests are classed as coastal ecosystems, blue carbon ecosystems store their carbon dioxide in their leaves, branches, roots and soil.
It is estimated that a mangrove will remove approximately 5.9kg of carbon and in their entire lifespan over 750kg, globally they are estimated to store over 6.4 billion tonnes in their soil. They are highly effective at reducing the effects of carbon climate change.
Alongside this carbon capture ability, they are a natural coastal defense, the dense roots provide a barrier against floods and storm surges. The roots also trap harmful sediment meaning they protect other ecosystems, such as coral reefs. Additionally, mangroves provide protection for an estimated 2.4 billion people who live within 100km of a coast, as they lessen the effects of severe weather events.
They are also hotspots of biodiversity. The forests are home to a variety of wildlife, above and below the waterline. Saltwater crocodiles claim the top predator position in these ecosystems, but they are also home to a variety of wildlife such as fish, turtles, crabs and nesting birds.
The winner of the 2022 photography award Tanya Houppermans, captured an up close portrait of one of these crocodiles, surrounded by mangroves at Gardens of the Queen. It is an archipelago off the coast of Cuba which has been placed under protection since 1996, making it one of the most untouched marine ecosystems in the world.
Mangrove forests are also vital for millions of peoples survival. People who live around these trees depend on them for their livelihoods, such as fishing but also for shelter, food, water and firewood. The wood is a valuable tool for local construction due to its ability to withstand rot and insect infestation. They contribute to the alleviation of poverty in less developed areas.
The Mangrove Photography brings to light the incredible nature of mangroves forte, which is why at SKOOT we’re so proud to plant so many.