It's a sobering fact that the world's coral reefs -- habitat to a quarter of marine wildlife -- are facing serious danger from ocean pollution and acidification, warming temperatures and human pressures like overfishing and tourism.
Of course, coral regeneration can be helped along; Mexico-based artist and 'eco-sculptor' Jason de Caires Taylor is doing just that with cement sculptures that are placed underwater to provide floating organisms like sponges, starfish and tunicates a place to anchor and form coral (since the sea floor is too soft and sandy).
Taylor's underwater videos (shot by the artist himself, as he is also a qualified diving instructor) give a sense of ethereal beauty of these submerged forms, arranged in symbolic compositions:
We've previously seen his work in an "underwater museum" in Mexican waters, populated with hundreds of his specially-designed sculptures, which are made out of a pH-neutral cement that encourages the colonization of marine life.
Over at NPR, Taylor's 2006 work at the Caribbean island of Grenada is revisited as you see here -- once-smooth surfaces now revealing a host of encrusted faces that are hauntingly life-like, and moving in their silent acquiescence. Since its inception, the underwater park at Grenada has been named one of the top twenty five world destinations by National Geographic -- no wonder, since one can imagine how mind-blowing it must be to suddenly come upon such an installation.
NPR explains the ingenuity of Jason's work in combining art with conservation:
But the sly part of all this is what the sculptures do for the coral. By pulling visitors away from the natural coral to the new, adjacent "parks," there is less human pressure at the original, fragile sites. And later as the statues get covered over, they may become hosts to the next generation of coral reefs. Sounds like it might work, unless the parks double the crowds, but the game is on.
Taylor's skillfully crafted sculptures not only provide reprieve for besieged coral reefs, but also are reminiscent of a kind of lost civilization of grace and beauty that can be rediscovered, if we choose -- a profound alchemy where human intervention is transformed from blight to life. Many more gorgeous images at Jason de Caires Taylor's website, and check out his videos too -- a real virtual treat.