Researchers create first-ever aerial map of Hawaii’s coral reefs | The Optimist Daily: Making Solutions the News
Today’s Solutions: July 12, 2024

Earlier this month, we wrote a piece about Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay and how its incredible coral reefs are teeming with life thanks to the lockdown. Today, we bring your more good news from Hawaii as a team of scientists have created the first-ever aerial map of the island’s precious coral reefs.

With the detailed map, local researchers will know exactly where to focus their conservation efforts.

“Never before has there been such a detailed and synoptic view of live corals at this scale,” said Jamison Gove of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To create the map, researchers from Arizona State’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS) flew inside a specially-equipped airplane that combines two technologies to create detailed maps. As reported in EcoWatch, one technology is artificial intelligence and the other is called laser-guided spectroscopy, which allows for maps of complicated landscapes.

Together, these technologies have provided crucial new findings of Hawaii’s reefs. For instance, the map unveiled that about 60 percent of the presence or absence of living coral could be explained by water depth, wave power, or coastal development. This finding could help influence future decisions from policymakers regarding coastal development in order to protect these reefs.

“Operational mapping of live coral cover within and across Hawaii’s reef ecosystems affords opportunities for managers and policymakers to better address reef protection, resilience, and restoration,” said study co-author Brian Neilson of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources. “With these new maps, we have a better shot at protecting what we have while focusing on where to improve conditions for corals and the myriad of species that depend upon corals.”

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