Nature Conservancy and partners launch project to create aerial maps of Caribbean coral reefs

Caribbean Aerial Mapping Imagery. Photo: Marjo Aho via the Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean will be working with several partners to create the first high-resolution map of the shallow waters of the entire Caribbean basin:

Groundbreaking photos of this innovative mission were released this morning, showcasing the revolutionary technology. The goal of this initative, the likes of which has never been attempted before, is to understand coral reef ecosystems in a truly comprehensive way in order to effectively plan for coral reef restoration and protection. This advanced technology offers hope for vulnerable reefs, the marine wildlife that inhabits them, and the people whose livelihoods depend on them.

The specialized aircraft collecting aerial images, called the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, launched missions in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and began mapping critical reef habitats. The plane will fly two subsequent missions a day for 16 straight days, first in the Virgin Islands and then over the Dominican Republic, gathering detailed data of both healthy and degraded coral reef ecosystems. The plan is to expand this aerial imaging and mapping throughout the Caribbean.

A vast majority of Caribbean countries and territories lack accurate and up-to-date maps of their own coral reefs, and this partnership aims to bridge these data gaps in the region. Without these baselines it is difficult to track and monitor changes, or to advise management of the most threatened areas that need immediate protection. This initiative will provide a consistent baseline at a level of accuracy that has never before been attained, acquiring data at multiple scales using state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies from drones, planes, and satellites. The results, once collected, will be shared with key government and conservation organizations to inform policy and protections.

Find out more at the Nature Conservancy website.

[Image: Marjo Aho via the Nature Conservancy]

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