Coral reefs and their surrounding ecosystems, like seagrasses, are faced with a myriad of challenges due to both local and global stressors. To support the resilience of these vital marine ecosystems, countries have established marine protected area programs, safeguarding the species and habitats within designated regions of their coastlines. However, many nations lack the resources to provide scientific datasets to help support data-informed decision making regarding where these protected areas should go. But now, with the help of Planet satellites, new datasets revealing insights on coral reef benthic habitats can help support management efforts. A research study conducted by The Nature Conservancy, Tama Group, Arizona State University, Planet, and the University of Southern Mississippi uses Planet’s satellite imagery to generate a first-of-its-kind regional thirteen-class benthic habitat map to 30 m water depth. With PlanetScope data, the group mapped a total of 203,676 km2 of habitat across the Caribbean using an object-based image analysis approach. This mapped data is now housed on the Allen Coral Atlas, an open online platform working to map all of the world’s coral reefs.
“This information provides a baseline of ecological data for developing and executing more strategic conservation actions, including implementing more effective marine spatial plans, prioritizing and improving marine protected area design, monitoring condition and change for post-storm damage assessments, and providing more accurate habitat data for ecosystem service models,” said the authors.
The full study can be found in Remote Sensing.
Image above displays one of the study sites in the shallow reefs surrounding Carriacou Island, Grenada. © 2020, Planet Labs PBC. All Rights Reserved.