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Global coral reef mapping and data distribution: Partnerships between remote sensing scientists and international agencies.
Robinson, Julie*,1, 2, Andréfouët, Serge3, Gebelein, Jennifer4, Spraggins, Alan1, 5, Green, Edmund6, Noordeloos, Marco 7, Burke, Lauretta 8, 1 Earth Science & Image Analysis Laboratory, Houston, TX, USA2 Lockheed Martin Space Operations, Houston, TX, USA3 University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, USA4 Florida International University, Miami, FL, US5 Hernandez Engineering, Houston, TX, USA6 United Nations Environment Programme, Cambridge, UK7 International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Penang, Malaysia8 World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, USA
ABSTRACT- Natural resource managers around the world desperately need maps of coral reefs and adjacent land areas. The current level of knowledge about such simple measures as the total area and locations of coral reefs in the world is not sufficient as a baseline for monitoring change. Regional studies attempting to identify the risk factors for decline of coral reefs are also faced with inadequate maps of reefs and adjacent land uses. At the same time, local managers clamor for detailed reef habitat maps for monitoring smaller scale changes in reef communities. These managers are making daily decisions that impact the health of coral reefs and the economies of the communities that depend on them. In a NASA-sponsored partnership between remote sensing scientists, international agencies and NGOs, new efforts are being made to develop the baseline global reef map that can be a foundation for future more detailed investigation. Global mapping protocols developed region-by-region allow improvement of the existing reef presence absence map maintained by the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). At the same time, these protocols produce a set of global reef areas maps showing major geomorphologic features and bottom types. We discuss the tradeoffs between different mapping objectives and abilities in meeting various user needs. A set of partnerships between researchers and UNEP-WCMC, ReefBase (International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management), and the World Resources Institute have been built to improve the relevance and distribution of global coral reef mapping data. We will describe the transition from research to operational methods using Landsat-7 data for operational production of land cover / shallow reef maps. We discuss the challenges faced in developing GIS-based distribution networks, and demonstrate how UNEP-WCMC and ReefBase will distribute such maps in support of the activities of international development agencies and local resource managers.
Key words: coral reefs, global mapping, remote sensing, GIS