A collection of 1,490 coral reef images has become the basis for a new Internet- based library for the Millennium Coral Reef Project. It was created in a partnership with NASA, international agencies, universities and other organizations to provide natural resource managers a comprehensive world data resource on coral reefs and adjacent land areas.
The integrated Remote Sensing of Coral Reefs and Millennium Coral Reef Mapping projects have many partners including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of South Florida (USF), which are providing funding, data or manpower.
The current knowledge about the total area and locations of coral reefs worldwide is not adequate to see changes that occur in them. "Remote sensing of coral reefs has been a rapidly developing research area," said Julie A. Robinson, the scientist who managed the project for the Earth Observations Laboratory at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, Texas.
NASA has contributed funding and satellite data to the project, whose purpose is to develop global reef maps as a base for future research. The project will also serve as a library for the coral reef remote sensing data.
From 1999 to 2003, the Landsat 7 satellite took the 1,490 images of coral reefs to complete the required global coverage. Landsat is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The images and data were assembled by the Institute for Marine Remote Sensing (IMaRS) at USF, St. Petersburg, Fla. "There has been amazing cooperation at all levels to assemble this data together," said Frank Muller-Karger, of USF. The Landsat 7 Science Team specifically scheduled observations of many reef areas for the first time.
The final map products are due for release in early 2005. Currently, the raw archive is available on the Internet at http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/landsat.pl. The archive and online data interface were developed by the SeaWiFS Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md.
"The archive is our first completed product and will immediately provide data to improve local assessments of reef resources around the world," Robinson said. "This data archive provides access to a reliable global satellite dataset for mapping coral reefs. It will serve as a source of data for projects around the world," said Serge Andréfouët, who led data collection and mapping at USF and is now with the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in New Caledonia.
USF in collaboration with JSC is characterizing, mapping and estimating extent of shallow coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean-Atlantic, Pacific, Indo-Pacific and Red Sea using the Landsat images. The archive highlights similarities and differences between reef structures at a scale never before considered by traditional field studies.
Other partners include the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and the World Fish Center's ReefBase Project.
"Current estimates of the extent, health and even the location of the world's coral reefs are completely inadequate to answer the key question about the how reefs and the fragile ecosystems that they support are adapting to a changing environment. This newly released data set will help provide the baseline against which future observations can be compared," said Gene Carl Feldman, SeaWiFS Project manager, NASA/GSFC.
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