from Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel
In the 18th year of the competition European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the 18 000 entered photographs demonstrate once more the beauty and diversity of nature – and also the significance of the competition among amateur and professional photographers alike. The photographs by 1 112 participants take us on a fascinating journey to natural spaces and ecosystems, inviting us to discover uncommon, often exceptional perspectives. This multitude of unique photos of exceptional quality, full of energy and power, aesthetics and grace illustrates nature's abundance and diversity. However, not all of them focus on beauty alone. Some shake us awake and show us where nature has its limits, and where it has been stretched to its limits by us humans. Many of the photographers spent hour after hour to take one photo, getting deeply involved with their environment to capture this one moment.
Especially the photo by this year's overall winner Cristobal Serrano depicts a sight that enthrals the viewer with its splendour of colour. This aerial shot shows two lesser flamingos at Lake Bogoria standing in the water coloured by high concentrations of mineral salts. What the image does not give away at first sight is this: in their diet lesser flamingos depend on a type of cyanobacteria typically found in highly alkaline salt lakes, and due to availability and composition of this basic food source, the species is very sensitive to changes in the ecosystem. The population is currently still estimated at up to 2.5 million individuals in East Africa, but the lesser flamingo has already made it onto the Red List of Threatened Species as potentially endangered: there are fears that reduced quality of its habitats and general disturbances will have a negative effect on the development of the population. This makes the lesser flamingo representative of a range of species that face the challenges of changing environmental conditions and the need to adapt. Stopping the decline of species and preserving biodiversity is one of our greatest tasks today for the future of our planet; it is the main objective for the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, not only for nature's sake, but also as the foundation of human life.
Thus, all the photographs have one thing in common: they show us the value of what we should fight for – the protection of the environment to grant future generations the chance to experience nature and also to profit from nature's many services. I would like to invite you to get inspired and motivated by these photographs to venture outside and discover the peculiarities and unique characteristics of nature, to learn its value and take part in its protection – not only on distant continents but right on your own doorstep.
Sources: Kaggwa, M.N., Gruber, M., Oduor, S.O. et al. Hydrobiologia (2013) 710: 83.
Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel
President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation