Cop26 in 26 images: Stunning images highlight environmental challenges

Cop26 in 26 images: Stunning images highlight environmental challenges

Cop26 in 26 images: Stunning photographs capture the beauty up for discussion at the climate crisis conference – from piglet on an industrial farm to lemon shark pup swimming off threatened Bahaman isles

  • 26 of the world’s best photographers have taken part ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow
  • The winner will receive a £500 cash donation to an environmental charity of their choice on November 6
  • The images depict the many environmental challenges faced by the earth and humanity in present day

Unaware of the fate which awaits it, a tiny piglet stands next to its immobilised mother in the soulless surroundings of an industrial farm.

The image is among those which are on the shortlist of the COP26 photo competition, held to raise awareness of the environmental challenges faced by the Earth and humanity. 

Twenty-six of the world’s best photographers have taken part ahead of the COP climate summit in Glasgow next week. 

The victor, who will win a £500 cash donation to an environmental charity of their choice, will be announced on November 6. 

The image of the sow and piglet was taken to highlight the harrowing conditions in industrial farms, which heavily contribute to climate change.  

Also among the images is one of a Golden Eagle feasting on a the carcass of a red deer in the Scottish Highlands. It was taken to highlight how, because the bird is one of the few remaining predators in the region, predator-prey dynamics are crucial to the success of a healthy ecosystem. 

A third photo shows a group of King penguins on the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia, highlighting how their way of life is under serious threat as a result of climate change. 

In a fourth image, a platypus is seen resting on a log in the Little Yarra River in Victoria, Australia. The animal is among those which are seriously threatened by deadly wildfires, which can boil away streams and destroy vegetation.  

Unaware of the fate which awaits it, a tiny piglet stands next to its immobilised mother in the soulless surroundings of an industrial farm. The image, taken by photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, is among those which are on the shortlist of the COP26 photo competition, held to raise awareness of the environmental challenges faced by the Earth and humanity. Sows are kept in gestation crates and then farrowing crates in industrial farms, which is the standard way of raising pigs for food. The pollution caused by industrial farming and the mass production of animals are among  the factors that contribute to climate change

Peter Cairns’s image of a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) feeding on a red deer carcass, in Assynt, Scotland Highlands. Scotland was once home to a much wider range of predators, including wolves and lynx. Hunted to extinction, their demise is more than a loss of a species, it’s the loss of a valuable ecological process. Predator-prey dynamics are complex and play an essential role in healthy living systems. This red deer will not only feed a top predator like a golden eagle but a whole host of scavengers from foxes and badgers right down to burying beetles and the tiniest of bacteria. The deer’s carcass will feed nutrients into the soil, promoting the growth of fresh vegetation. Without predators and the processes they catalyse, our landscapes are muted, less dynamic and less productive

Roy Mangersnes’s image of King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in St Andrews Bay, South Georgia. Early in the morning the King penguin adults that have been out fishing return with their catch. They waddle up through hordes of seals and fellow penguins, each one calling out to their single chick hidden in the mass of similar chicks. After feeding their young, the parent King penguins line up along the beach, seeming to enjoy the sunrise before heading into the freezing waters once more. This beautiful circle of life is seen every morning on St. Andrews Bay, throughout the Antarctic summer months. South Georgia is considered part of Antarctica because it is situated inside the Convergence line, with cold and rich Antarctic water. However, that line is not fixed and as warmer waters from the Atlantic push south it might reach a point where the island finds itself on the wrong side of the line. This will be devastating for penguins and all other wildlife on South Georgia because the fishing grounds will be too far away and they won’t be able to feed their young

Doug Gimesy’s image of a Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) just after being released onto a log in Little Yarra River, Yarra junction, Victoria, Australia. April 2018. When people think of bushfires, they often don’t realise the potential impact to animals like the platypus (Ornithorynchus anatinus) that lives in freshwater ways and streams. Platypuses can suffer not just during the fires but afterwards because streams can boil away leaving no place for them to forage. The the destruction of riverbank vegetation can also eliminate places for platypuses to safely hide from predators

Sandesh Kadur’s image of pig-nosed frogs (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) in Western Ghats, India. The thin, porous skin of frogs and tadpoles make them highly sensitive to their surrounding environment. Through their skin, frogs absorb chemicals from the air and water. It is this feature that makes frogs good indicators of environmental damage. Purple frogs (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) spend much of their life underground and emerge briefly for a few days each year at the beginning of monsoon to breed

Jen Guyton’s image of the cones of a female Welwitschia plant (Welwitschia mirabilis) Swakopmund, Namib Desert, Namibia. They are among the most ancient organisms on the planet: some individuals might be more than 2000 years old. Welwitschia are among the weirdest and most interesting plants alive today. Unfortunately, the long-term survival of this rare and remarkable species is threatened by climate change. Welwitschia plants require very specific conditions to survive, and scientists predict that climatic suitability in northern Namibia will be substantially reduced by 2050. These changes will likely cause a shift and a contraction in the species’ range, with the risk of increased mortality

Tony Wu’s image of a group of sperm whales off the coast of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean. The whale pictured defecating here is around 40feet in length. As the whale dives and eats, she cycles nutrients from the depths of the oceans to the surface of the sea. The sudden flood of nutrient-dense biological matter can spark blooms of phytoplankton. Like plants on land, phytoplankton engage in photosynthesis, a process that absorbs carbon dioxide.  However, by the end of the era of industrialised whaling, humans had killed around two thirds of the sperm whale population and their decline is impacting cycling of carbon on a global scale



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Edwin Giesbers’s image of two Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on an iceberg, Antarctica. Photographer Grigoriy Mikheev described how the image conveyed his feelings about Antarctica, that it is an ‘infinitely large and magical world where you as a human being feel small and insignificant’. However, global warming is a significant threat to penguin colonies 

Staffan Widstrand’s image of a Red panda or Lesser panda (Ailurus fulgens) in the humid Laba Forest in Labahe Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China. The Red panda used to live in broadleaf and mixed forests all along the Himalayas but has been hunted to local extinction in many areas. Its fur is prized for ceremonial local dress outfits and in the international fur market. Luckily, in China, during the last few years, the red panda has begun to return in numbers, thanks to a hunting ban, reforestation programs, increased protected areas and a government clampdown on the illegal wildlife trade

Tim Laman’s image of a Greater bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea apoda) perches on a tree top in Badigaki Forest, Wokam – part of the the Aru Islands, Indonesia. Found here in Aru and on adjacent New Guinea, the Greater Bird-of-Paradise represents around forty different species of birds of paradise that depend on intact rainforest across the New Guinea. With more than 80 per cent of forest cover still intact, this region represents the largest remaining block of rainforest in the entire Asia-Pacific. As a huge carbon sink, it is a crucial aid in the fight against climate change

Nick Upton’s image of Goldenstedt moor, near Vechta, Lower Saxony, Germany. Peat bogs cover just three per cent of the Earth’s surface, but hold around 25 per cent of all the carbon stored in soils – twice as much as all the forests in the world combined. It means that how they are managed is an increasingly important topic

Yashpal Rathore’s image of a male Kottigehar dancing frog (Micrixalus kottigeharensis) putting on a display to attract the attention of a female. Traditionally male frogs rely on their croaking to attract females, but here they are struggling to be heard over the noise of fast-flowing water. So, this tiny frog, no bigger than your thumb, climbs onto a small stone and uses a different technique to attract the opposite sex: it waves its foot. The more testosterone it has, the more waving it does. This attracts possible mates and deters rival males. Global warming will negatively impact different aspects of frogs’ lives: their immune and breeding systems, their habitat and embryo hatching process. The dancing frog is also threatened by the loss of its habitat. It needs 80 per cent forest canopy cover and perennial streams, both of which are under threat

Shane Gross’s image of a Lemon shark pup (Negaprion brevirostris) in Eleuthera, the Bahamas. The mangrove forest it is swimming in as a nursery for juveniles of this species. Mangroves also provide important habitats for other species of fish, as well as and crabs (one seen above).  Mangroves are also the best-known defence against large storm surges and they absorb large amounts of carbon. However, they are being destroyed by humans

Lucas Bustamante’s image of palm oil crops and deforestation in the Chocó–Darién moist forests in Ecuador. South America has the highest rate of deforestation globally, and Ecuador is ranked number two on the continent, just after Brazil. Deforestation is the largest and most serious biodiversity and conservation problem in South America

Mark Carwardine’s image of a Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) off Baja, Mexico. Tens of millions of sharks are killed around the world every year to make shark-fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in China. Many populations have been fished to extinction. Unfortunately, their fearful reputation makes it difficult to drum up support for conserving them

Jack Dykinga’s image of a Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmanni) stressed and dying as a result of drought, in the Tucson Mountains, Arizona. The south-western USA has seen some of the most persistent droughts on record due to increasing temperatures. Arizona is currently in its 26th year of a long-term drought

Michel Roggo’s aerial view of the front of the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, Greenland. entering the Kangia Ilulissat Icefjord full of icebergs. The glacier is one of the fastest-moving  and most active glaciers in the world. Scientists also believe that rising temperatures result in increasing amounts of meltwater under the glacier

Nick Garbutt’s image of an adult humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) diving in a deep water channel in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. The region’s intricate mosaic of forests, islands, fjords and mountains are incredibly rich and biodiverse and support a wealth of wildlife. Pacific salmon that feed in the Bering Sea migrate back to their natal rivers in British Columbia to spawn and die. In autumn their corpses litter the river margins and adjacent forests as bears, wolves and other predators feed on the bounty. The decaying corpses fertilize the entire forest. Everywhere there is intricate inter-connectivity and all driven by seasonal cycles threatened by climate change

Dong Lei’s image of a rescued Chinese pangolin. A series of conservation efforts are underway to save the last remaining wild populations in Chin. Pangolins are threatened by poaching for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and by heavy deforestation of their natural habitats

Neil Aldridge’s image of a grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus) hunting over a meadow on a clear summer night in Devon, England. The decline of Britain’s rarest breeding bat is linked to the disappearance of its grassland foraging habitat and the decimation of insect numbers due to intensive agricultural practices and development

Ashley Cooper’s image of Tehachapi Pass wind farm in California. It is the first large-scale wind farms in the US. The development of the wind farm started in the early 1980s. In 2020, wind power supplied 8 per cent of the US’s energy needs, while in the UK almost 25 per cent of energy came from wind power, surpassing that from coal and nuclear

Alex Mustard’s image of schools of baitfish, including Cardinalfish (Apogon spp) and Silversides (Atherinidae), massing on a coral reef in Misool, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. The rich variety of animal life on reefs is a biochemical treasure-trove, providing us with vital ingredients for certain medicines

Rivoni Mkansi’s image of a water droplet in South Africa. The gap between rich and poor in the country is wider than in any other nation (according to World Bank data) and 74 per cent of people living in rural areas still depend on wells and pumps for their water

Heather Angel’s of Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) in Shunan Zhuhai National Park, Sichuan Province, China. Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) is a giant grass capable of adding up to three feet a day, making it one of the fastest-growing plants. This temperate bamboo reaches harvestable size in just five years, so as new shoots are formed annually, the fully grown culms can be harvested each year, which opens up the canopy for younger plants to reach maturity. Eucalyptus trees take 15 years before they are harvested and conifers such as pine, fir, spruce and larch around 40 years. As it grows, Moso bamboo absorbs far more carbon dioxide than it releases. It is also a sustainable resource that regrows after it has been cut. Native to China and Taiwan, this bamboo is grown mainly in China but now also in Japan, Portugal and the USA

Sirachai Arunrugstichai’s image of fish caught in a net in waters off Thailand.  Heavy use of industrial fisheries has led to the decline of fish stocks and the quality of catches

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