These stunning photographs show how vital mangroves are to the health of the planet

By Katharine Rooney, Formative Content | October 22, 2021

Mangrove forests, with their roots knee-deep in the sea, provide shelter for endangered wildlife, food for coastal communities, and a rich ecosystem with the ability to extract up to five times as much carbon from the atmosphere as forests on land.

Yet mangrove ecosystems around the world are under threat. In some regions, more than 80% have already been lost. Raising awareness of the vital role that mangroves play in both biodiversity and environmental sustainability is more important than ever.

As the winners of the Mangrove Photography Award 2021 show, mangroves are deeply entwined with life on the shoreline, from the Caribbean to the Middle East and from the Philippines to the Florida coast.

The competition is run by the Mangrove Action Project. Now in its seventh year, it has attracted entries from 65 countries. Here are some of its most impressive submissions.

Overall Winner: “A Brave Livelihood” — Musfiqur Rahman, Bangladesh

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Deep in a mangrove forest in Bangladesh, a wild honey gatherer subdues bees with smoke. Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Winner of Mangroves & Landscape: “Autumn Tree” — Zohaib Anjun, UAE

mangrove ecosystem biodiversity keystone species sustainability photography woodland global health environment nature climate change global warming

Most of the mangroves found along the United Arab Emirates coastline are in Abu Dhabi, where they act as a green lung for the city. Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Winner of Mangroves & Wildlife: “Adaptation of the Bengal Tiger” — Arijit Das, India

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“After four days of tracking the elusive Bengal tiger,” writes the photographer, “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.” Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Winner of Mangroves & People: “Mangrove Propagators” — Mark Kevin Badayos, Philippines

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The sun sets on the shore following community mangrove restoration and beach cleaning. Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Winner of Mangroves & Underwater: “Shelter” — Shane Gross, Bahamas

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Born on the beach, green turtles grow up in the open ocean, dine on seagrass and seek refuge in mangroves and coral reefs. Image: Mangrove Action Project

Winner of Mangroves & Threats: “Garbage” — Mark Kevin Badayos, Philippines

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“The plastic problem in this part of the world is huge,” says the photographer who captured this image, “ and the mangroves are threatened and slowly suffocating in plastic waste.” Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Winner of Mangroves & Youth: “Coastal Phantom” — Caleb Hoover, USA

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 The Clapper Rail is an elusive waterbird that has not been seen in this part of Florida for over six years. This one has found shelter in a small stretch of coastal mangroves. Image: Mangrove Action Project.

Asides from hosting the photography competition, the Mangrove Action Project is actively engaged in preserving, conserving, and restoring the world’s mangrove forests, including as a Knowledge Partner of the Mangroves Working Group, led by Friends of Ocean Action.

This article was first published by the World Economic Forum.

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