Marshlands are muddy, smelly, and messy. But they are beautiful. And useful. Coastal marshes are inter-tidal transition zones between ocean and land. They teem with sea life that supports local communities. What is more they serve as shock absorbers that cushion the destructive force of violent storms. Fresh water inland marshes are important recreational and fishing resources for the local economy and essential habitats for migrating birds.
I’ve been photographing marshlands since 2010 when I first visited the Mai Po Nature Reserve. I was surprised such a wild place exists in one of the most urbanized regions of the world, Hong Kong. It is there I fell in love with mangroves. The intense colors of the decomposing soil and sinuous, knobby mangrove branches pulled me into a surreal landscape. Walloped by the humidity, stench, and flora chaos, I have never felt closer to the earth than photographing Mai Po.
Coastal marshlands are imperiled landscapes, vulnerable to development and sea level rise caused by climate change. Seas could rise three-to-five feet by 2100, inundating many of these low-lying coastal marshland areas. Climate change is also stressing inland marshlands as annual precipitation becomes more unpredictable, contributing to substantial die off of scenic woodlands in some places.
It’s worth noting that conserving and replanting mangroves — especially — makes sense to combat climate change because they remove carbon from the atmosphere at double the rate of conventional forests. There isn’t a more robust carbon storage habitat, except perhaps the seabed or Arctic permafrost.
These imperiled marshlands are too beautiful and valuable to lose! Visit and donate to the organizations listed below that are working to preserve these marshlands.