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A dramatic journey through the deterioration of coral reefs in Thailand and Indonesia

The photographer Giacomo d’Orlando has documented efforts to save this delicate marine ecosystem

Deterioration of coral reefs in Thailand
Coral Nurseries. The coral reefs of Pemuteran, northwest of Bali, have been deteriorated due to aggressive fishing methods used in the area. To restore the habitat, coral nurseries have been built using a technology called electrolytic mineral accretion (Biorock).Giacomo d'Orlando

Around 70% of the planet’s surface is covered in water. That water feeds us, protects us. It is a source of economic, social and cultural wealth. Oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, since coastal systems, such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows absorb more carbon dioxide emissions than the same surface area of forests on land. However, pollution, overfishing and coastal development are deteriorating their health. Tropical coral reefs could disappear by the end of this century, and by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Reports from the IPCC, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, point to Southeast Asia as one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in the world, with Thailand and Indonesia among the most affected countries.

With the Symbiosis project, which the images in this photoessay belong to, I want to highlight the interconnection of the effects of climate change on the marine and coastal environment, such as the loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, acidification of the oceans and the rise in temperatures with their negative effects on the reefs. The title of this work also alludes to the close relationship between humans and the marine environment. I investigate how these phenomena directly affect the lives of coastal communities whose economic livelihood is linked to the sea. In order to generate constructive debate, without falling into feelings of surrender or despair, a central part of the project is dedicated to the solutions that both local communities and scientists are implementing to try to save the health of the marine ecosystem for future generations. It is intended to be an archive that documents the changes of our time and becomes an impetus for preservation.

The reef builder. On Tidung Island the 'Acropora' species is used for its rapid growth. Coral reefs grow between 10 and 15 centimeters per year and little by little the ecosystem damaged by fishing with aggressive methods such as explosives is recovering.
The reef builder. On Tidung Island the 'Acropora' species is used for its rapid growth. Coral reefs grow between 10 and 15 centimeters per year and little by little the ecosystem damaged by fishing with aggressive methods such as explosives is recovering.Giacomo d'Orlando
Divers in action. Two local divers place concrete pieces off the coast of Jameluk, east of Bali, which are part of a coral recovery project. Artificial structures can vary in materials and dimensions to create refuges for marine fauna.
Divers in action. Two local divers place concrete pieces off the coast of Jameluk, east of Bali, which are part of a coral recovery project. Artificial structures can vary in materials and dimensions to create refuges for marine fauna.Giacomo d'Orlando
A death star. The crown of thorns ('Acanthaster planci') is a species of starfish that damages coral by feeding on it. Rising sea temperatures and acidification make it more resistant and voracious, posing a threat to reefs.
A death star. The crown of thorns ('Acanthaster planci') is a species of starfish that damages coral by feeding on it. Rising sea temperatures and acidification make it more resistant and voracious, posing a threat to reefs.Giacomo d'Orlando
Extreme oxygen conditions. A specimen of 'Pocillopora', a genus of hard coral, is subjected to low levels of oxygen in the laboratories of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research at Prince of Songkhla University, southern Thailand. Lack of oxygen causes rapid tissue loss in the coral.
Extreme oxygen conditions. A specimen of 'Pocillopora', a genus of hard coral, is subjected to low levels of oxygen in the laboratories of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research at Prince of Songkhla University, southern Thailand. Lack of oxygen causes rapid tissue loss in the coral.Giacomo d'Orlando
 Fragile balance. The increase in water temperature and the proliferation of algae (so-called eutrophication, caused by excess nutrients due to the use of agricultural fertilizers) that compete with coral are two factors that affect water quality and the health of the marine ecosystem.
Fragile balance. The increase in water temperature and the proliferation of algae (so-called eutrophication, caused by excess nutrients due to the use of agricultural fertilizers) that compete with coral are two factors that affect water quality and the health of the marine ecosystem.Giacomo d'Orlando
The human footprint. Bang Erik, a resident of Tidung Island and activist for the conservation of coral reefs, during recovery work. In recent years, the Kepulauan Seribu archipelago has been affected by rising water temperatures and human activities.
The human footprint. Bang Erik, a resident of Tidung Island and activist for the conservation of coral reefs, during recovery work. In recent years, the Kepulauan Seribu archipelago has been affected by rising water temperatures and human activities.Giacomo d'Orlando
Nemo no longer colors the reef. Populations of common clownfish ('Amphiprion ocellaris') are greatly declining off the coast of Jakarta, Indonesia, due to overfishing and the ornamental fish trade. In the image, specimens at Nemo Hatchery, a hatchery of this species that opened in 2018.
Nemo no longer colors the reef. Populations of common clownfish ('Amphiprion ocellaris') are greatly declining off the coast of Jakarta, Indonesia, due to overfishing and the ornamental fish trade. In the image, specimens at Nemo Hatchery, a hatchery of this species that opened in 2018.Giacomo d'Orlando
Preserve for the future. Researcher Suchana Chavanich works on a cryopreservation project for spores of the coral 'Acropora humilis' in the laboratories of the marine sciences department at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok.
Preserve for the future. Researcher Suchana Chavanich works on a cryopreservation project for spores of the coral 'Acropora humilis' in the laboratories of the marine sciences department at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok.Giacomo d'Orlando
Deterioration of coral reefs in Thailand
Coral Nurseries. The coral reefs of Pemuteran, northwest of Bali, have been deteriorated due to aggressive fishing methods used in the area. To restore the habitat, coral nurseries have been built using a technology called electrolytic mineral accretion (Biorock).Giacomo d'Orlando

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