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Collaborative project yields first high-resolution map of the world’s coral reefs

Climate change is a huge threat to the world’s coral reefs, but targeted conservation efforts can help buy us time in saving these critical marine ecosystems. To help citizens, scientists, and policymakers better understand the world’s reefs, the Allen Coral Atlas has recently finished the first-ever high-resolution satellite map of the world’s shallow coral reefs.

The complete map is truly a collaborative effort and is the result of three years of work, 450 research teams, and nearly two million satellite images. The satellite imagery was provided by Planet, and these images were cleaned by a team from Arizona State University before being integrated into the map by researchers at the University of Queensland. The National Geographic Society is training conservationists on how to best use the map while the company Vulcan sponsors the live website.

The map was named after its early instigator: late Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen. The current map covers coral reefs up to a depth of 15 meters. Previously, only about a quarter of the world’s coral reefs were mapped using high-resolution imagery.

The atlas provides multiple layers of data including a benthic map layer, which shows what other habitats and organisms are living around reefs, as well as a protected area map for conservationists and policymakers. The geomorphic layer shows the physical contour of different reefs so conservationists can know where planting lab-raised corals will be most effective.

You can check the map out for yourself here.

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