Mangroves are incredible ecosystems that help combat climate change and protect fisheries and coastlines around the world, but they are being lost at an unprecedented rate. They have declined rapidly around the world, losing out to shrimp farms, tourist resorts, agriculture, and urban land development over the past few decades.
Intertwined root systems that arch high over the water are a distinctive feature of many mangroves, making it difficult to navigate and a challenging place to photograph. But mangroves are an incredibly rewarding place to capture photos. Home to a wide array of animals including birds, mammals, sharks and even Bengal tigers, mangroves are a photographer’s dream.
The Mangrove Action Project’s annual photography contest aims to raise the profile of these critical ecosystems. Their 2020 contest gives a fascinating insight into the world of mangroves from all corners of the earth. Entries capture the relationships between wildlife, coastal communities, and mangrove forests, as well as the fragility of these unique ecosystems from both above, and below, the water line. Jaguars in mangroves, grinning crocodiles, dancing trees and thousands of flamingos reclaiming a lost habitat are some of the incredible and intriguing images from this year’s competition.
The sixth year of the competition has been the most exciting to date with the inclusion of some special judges; Cristina Mittermeier, Steve Winter, Octavio Aburto, and Jennifer Hayes. “The Mangrove Photography Awards offers a chance for photographers to raise their voices for the protection of one of the most critical and threatened ecosystems”, says Cristina Mittermeier. “Through impactful imagery and visual storytelling, we can rally people to action, sparking empathy and connection to our natural world.”
Victor Hugo Luja Molina has won the competition with a rarely seen image; Once Again Being a Mother, which shows a female Jaguar in an intimate moment with her cub in a mangrove forest in Mexico. Victor spent two years trying to get the perfect shot of Janis, a female resident mangrove jaguar, when he finally captured this great moment of her with her cub. Victor says “The mangrove ecosystem in Western Mexico is facing huge conservation problems with so much land use change, including illegal shrimp farms. I hope that by entering the photography awards, it will raise awareness of the importance of mangroves to jaguars here, but also the vulnerability of these habitats.”
Among the category winners is an incredible image of an American crocodile, a beautiful and powerful animal, seen swimming along the bank where the ocean meets the mangrove trees. The image was taken by Jenny stock in a mangrove forest in Cuba, an important habitat for crocodiles where they use the mangrove forests for all aspects of their life cycle. Jenny says “It was my first encounter with a crocodile in the water and it was completely exhilarating. Being up close to such a powerful animal will make your heart race, they move incredibly fast so you can’t take your eyes off them.”
Judge Steve Winter adds “Mangroves are such a vitally important part of the ecosystem. They are the nursery for many aquatic species. The health of these ecosystems is vital to human and animal health. We can see from the great over and underwater shots the abundance of life living among the roots of the mangroves. Congratulations to all the winners!”
By harnessing people’s creativity through photography, Mangrove Action Project wants to show the true beauty of mangroves and to inspire action to protect these unique ecosystems. Preserving mangrove forests can dramatically reduce the damage to coastlines due to tropical storms and even mitigate the effects of climate change. They are among the most carbon-rich forests in the world and provide food security and livelihood opportunities to communities across the world. The photography contest offers a platform for amateur and professional photographers to help shine a light on stories and species from mangroves around the world.
You can enjoy all of the winners and highly commended photos here.
Science Communicator, Mangrove Action Project
Laura is a marine biologist and science communicator who joined Mangrove Action Project as a communications specialist earlier this year. She has over 10 years’ experience working in mangroves and coastal wetlands, specializing in ecosystem services, plant/animal interactions and invertebrate ecology. Laura has a PhD from the University of Portsmouth on the role of fiddler crabs in mangrove ecosystems, and is a contributor for ECO Magazine, a leading international marine science publication.