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There's a fine line between helping and hurting.

Subway cars used to create artificial coral reef habitats in the Atlantic

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 2:18 PM - For more than a decade, decommissioned New York City subway cars have quietly been shipped out to the Atlantic Ocean where they're dumped into the ocean as part of an environmental effort to build an artificial habitat for coral reefs. Photographer Stephen Mallon has documented the process.

Over the years Mallon has photographed four "drops" and two "load-ups" as part of a series called Next Stop Atlantic, which chronicles the trains as they're stripped of toxic materials, loaded up, shipped and then deposited into the ocean -- where the instantly recognizable cars eventually become a new home and breeding ground to coral, crustaceans and fish that have attached themselves to the hard surfaces.

It's just one of many solutions researchers have come up with to protect coral. Many species are in decline due to rising ocean temperatures, disease and a spike in recreational and commercial fishing activities.

In December 2012, NOAA proposed listing 66 coral species on the Endangered Species Act in an effort to save a resource that generates approximately $1.1 billion and thousands of jobs worldwide.

The proposal made headlines at the time, while sparking a conversation about an important cause.

RELATED: Learn how you can help protect coral reefs

"Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., on behalf of NOAA.

"Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion ... this is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future."

It has been estimated that coral reefs generate $200 million annually in the U.S. alone -- but coral is in trouble and reefs around the world are dwindling at an alarming rate.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2012, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral since 1985. If current trends continue, experts say that number could halve again by 2022.

Mallon's images will be on display at New York University's Kimmel Galleries from February 6th to March 15, 2015. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website.


Courtesy: Stephen Mallon

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