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Ecological mapping of coral reefs

Tropical coral reefs are home to an enormous variety of marine life; however, they are under threat from human activities and rising sea levels due to climate change. A better understanding of the ecological mechanisms that take place within tropical coral reefs will help to ensure their conservation.

Climate Change and Environment

Spatial distribution of coral reefs plays a key role in the biodiversity, structure and resilience of these vital marine habitats. With the aid of remote sensing technology, scientists can now monitor reefs at the local and regional scales. This enables study of the relationship between a coral reef structure and its biological community. The 'Coral reefscape ecology and mapping' (CREM) project investigated the use of remote sensing to address urgent issues related to coral reef conservation. It set out to use high-resolution images from satellites and aircraft to develop an online classification scheme based on maps of the structure and function of coral reefs. Researchers studied the relationship between the structural complexity of reefs and the diversity, mobility and dispersion of their biological community. The data can be used to establish a coral reef health index and predict the habitat's suitability for different species. Different features of the reef can also be ranked according to their level of protection. CREM contributed to two publications in peer-reviewed journals dealing with the bathymetry, coral reef diversity mapping using very-high–resolution satellite imagery. It also contributed to three publications in peer-reviewed proceedings dealing with novel satellite and statistical techniques developed to study coral reef ecosystems.

Keywords

Ecological mapping, coral reefs, marine life, reefscape, mapping

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