Diane Burko, Coral Reef, Drone over Alega Bay 2, 15″ x 15″ Archival Pigment Print, 2018
The enigmatic nature of coral reefs contributes entirely to their remarkableness. These large, underwater, living structures are at the centre of the World’s biodiversity. Though we know of their importance, the actual science behind their existence often evades us. Society is most familiar with hard corals, organisms with external skeletons that feed by mostly by way of energy produced by algae (via photosynthesis) and it is these algae that give the coral their lively colours.
Our modern world has not been so kind to the ocean; increasing acidification, water pollution and global warming are wreaking havoc on our reefs. Changes in the ph of the water is inhibiting the coral’s ability to grow their external skeletons. Pesticides, fertilisers, oil leaks and sewage discharge hinder the coral’s ability to thrive, having immeasurable knock on effects within the ecosystem. Finally, as temperatures rise, the coral begins to expel the algae which it mostly depends on for survival. Each of those forces alone are fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together they assure it.
Though coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor – they are a leading contender for one of the most vibrant ecosystems on Earth. The health of our reefs signify the health of our oceans, and currently it’s not looking good. The existential crisis the reef is currently facing can seem to some, a problem far removed. Mostly a result of inconsistent information and desensitisation, but this disconnection and disregard is set to only worsen matters.
Diane Burko’s work takes a microscopic glance into the movements of the living organisms of a coral but also contributes to the public dialogue on our coral reefs. By learning from researchers in the field, bearing witness to the actual phenomenon and processing the knowledge visually – Burko provides an insight into the beauty and importance of our reefs. A link that can otherwise be overlooked. This collection communicates the issues of climate change, and the effect it is having on our coral reefs. It’s now reported that recovery of the reef is possible, if only we can give it chance.