Mother’s Lament

coral ecosystems - rainforests of the seas

Artist Michael Gresalfi‘s painting of past, present and possible future states of our coral ecosystems – the ‘rainforests of the seas’ – points to a grim outcome if we cannot rapidly implement international strategies. He finds inspiration in the “elegant tit-for-tat” coral-algae relationship of shelter, food and, photosynthesis: “the algae also paint their coral hosts with their famous colors — the riotous colors of a reef are actually a symbol of one of the world’s oldest alliances.”


This painting depicts the tragic deterioration and loss of our oceans’ coral reefs since the advent of the post-industrial ‘Anthropocene era’. I have presented this science-informed vision within a three-panel view of the past, present, and possible future viability of these so-called ‘rainforests of the seas’.

Michael Gresalfi is an artist who seeks to incorporate art with climate change data, and whose work in encaustic medium, glass paint, oils and acrylics includes ‘Our Changing Planet’.

 

Increased ocean temperatures and changing ocean chemistry are the greatest global threats to coral reef ecosystems. These threats are caused by warmer atmospheric temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in seawater. As atmospheric temperatures rise, so do seawater temperatures.

This painting depicts the tragic deterioration and loss of our oceans’ coral reefs since the advent of the post-industrial ‘Anthropocene era’. I have presented this science-informed vision within a three-panel view of the past, present, and possible future viability of these so-called ‘rainforests of the seas’.

Coral ‘bleaching’ occurs as a stress response to both increasing ocean temperatures and pollution. The mass extinction of these critical ecosystems is envisioned within the third panel. This grim future is unfortunately a realistic outcome unless humanity works together to quickly design and then rapidly implement internationally agreed-upon mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The coral-algae relationship is an elegant tit-for-tat. The algae find shelter in the coral’s exoskeleton, and use its waste to perform photosynthesis. In exchange, the algae gives the coral oxygen and energy-rich sugars, plus a built-in waste management system. The algae also paint their coral hosts with their famous colors — the riotous colors of a reef are actually a symbol of one of the world’s oldest alliances.

When a coral is stressed, it can take drastic measures and expel its photosynthetic roommates. This removes the need to share nutrients, but also takes away the coral’s main food source; according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), up to 90 percent of the sugars that algae produce are donated to the coral. If the algae don’t return within a few weeks, the coral will die.


Mother’s Lament is a 36′ x 30′ acrylic painting on framed canvas

You can find more of Michael’s work at his website. And in our archive, you can find his previous Creative Showcase pieces for ClimateCultures: “What Man Has Wrought”, a seven-panel installation using styrofoam with melted wax, acrylics and a heat gun to reflect a world we risk if we fail to make restoring our Earth our shared priority; and Our Changing Planet: a video presentation of his artworks with his own narration, offering educators and advocates one example of personally communicating the science of climate change through a creative medium.

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