11 June 2018
Winning image of Dendrogyra cylindrus or Pillar coral by Dan Mele.
Winning image of Dendrogyra cylindrus or Pillar coral by Dan Mele.

The winner of the UQ Global Change Institute’s 2018 photography competition is Dan Mele for his beautiful photograph of Dendrogyra cylindrus – Pillar coral.

This year's competition theme was Coral Reefs under Global Change.

According to Dan, Pillar coral has been vanishing fast from the Florida Reef, with the most recent reports documenting fewer than 80 known colonies remaining.

“Disease and coral bleaching have been working hand-in-hand to diminish this species from the Florida Reef Tract,” he said.

“For the past two years, I have been working for the Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys, where we have created a gene bank to help preserve this species.

“This photo was taken at the laboratory of one of our specimens that will eventually be used for helping to restore Pillar coral to the Florida Reef tract.”

The IUCN Red List confirmed that Pillar coral is vulnerable due to its susceptibility to bleaching, disease, and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats.

The species occurs in the Caribbean, southern Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the Bahamas. The species is reported to have been eliminated from Panama, even though recent fossils (<1000 year old) have been found.

“It will be important to reassess this species in 10 years’ time because of predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification,” the Red List warned.

A selection of the photo competition’s top entries will be displayed in the atrium of GCI’s Living Building later in the year.



Above: Last April, I took photos to illustrate the healthy and dead coral in Moorea (French Polynesia) during sampling trips –  MARTA MASDEU NAVARRO

Above: This image was taken on a trip to Cozumel, Mexico at the beautiful Palancar Reef. It was such an amazing experience seeing all of the sealife and how calm life is under the sea. Such a shame to know that the reefs will soon be gone – ABRAHAM LIANDRO

Above: A casual swim after a day's work on the Great Barrier Reef's Heron Island never gets old. This image was captured at sunset near the ship wreck – AARON CHAI

Above: Rising temperatures are increasing the number of Crown of Thorns Starfishes (COTs). Aside from climate change, COTs represent a major threat to reefs since they are feeding on corals (white marks). RIB Reef, Great Barrier Reef – CHRIS BRUNNER

Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. Photo: SIRSENDU GAYEN

Above: I visited the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park for my holiday and took this image. Vacationing snorkelers and scuba divers aren't the biggest threat facing coral reefs—that dubious honor belongs to the trifecta of global warming, the fishing industry, and land-based pollution. But tourism is still a major area of concern where rapid expansion of the tourism industry isn't always coupled with well-managed conservation efforts –  SIRSENDU GAYEN





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