After four years of cooperation, an international team of researchers and institutions has produced Allen Coral Atlas, The first global map of shallow coral reefs.Coral reefs are estimated homes 25% of marine life, But due to the bleaching caused by the heat wave, half has been lost. Protection is vital to their survival.
The project was initiated by the late Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen, who died in 2018. Allen is passionate about the health of the ocean, dives into the coral reef and witnessed the deterioration of the coral reef first-hand. His Seattle-based company, Vulcan, contributed $9 million to the Atlas, plus staff time spent on project management, engineering, and web development. The co-financiers provided USD 2 million.
“We are now at a very important moment. We are in the midst of a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a coral reef crisis. Governments are now thinking together how we will respond to these crises.” Chuck Cooper, The managing director of government affairs of Vulcan. “Coral reefs are the link between the climate-biodiversity crisis.”
Allen Coral Atlas was created through a collaboration between Vulcan; Arizona State University; Planet, which operates the largest group of earth imaging satellites; National Geographic Society; and the University of Queensland, Australia.Famous marine biologist and coral expert Ruth Gates Helped start the work; by coincidence, she passed away a few weeks later in Allen.
To build the atlas, Planet provided nearly 2 million satellite images, which were adjusted by ASU researchers to take into account the distortion of the atmosphere and water. The University of Queensland applies machine learning to images and uses additional data to create maps. The National Geographic and Conservation Organization collaborated on how to use the atlas.
Vulcan has established contacts with governments and intergovernmental agencies to understand their needs for tools, to help fine-tune the platform to meet these needs, and to ensure that interested parties understand the atlas after completion. The project now has connections with all about 100 countries that have coral reefs in their borders.
As the atlas is up and running, ASU will become the project manager and take the lead in adding new features. The platform will continuously update the map to view events such as bleaching in near real time and monitor other changes in the ecosystem.
Features of the atlas include:
- A map spanning nearly 100,000 square miles of shallow coral reefs
- Information includes outlines of marine reserves, as well as detailed information showing corals, seagrass, rocks, sand, and other features
- Bleaching monitoring system
- Image with 15m depth and 3.7m resolution underwater
The atlas has been used by countries all over the world. The Solomon Islands and Fiji Islands are using this tool to develop marine protected areas, while the Bahamas are using it to select the best reef restoration areas, where they “plant” corals that grow in nurseries.
This bleaching tool developed in Hawaii can warn coral reefs that they are in danger due to ocean heat waves. The Hawaiian government and researchers have proposed protective measures that people can take during the bleaching event to eliminate the so-called secondary pressure. This includes reducing the use or fishing of coral reefs in the area.
“Additional pressure can explain the difference between coral survival,” said Greg Asner, managing director of the Allen Coral Atlas and head of the Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation. Asner, who lives in Hawaii, delivered a speech at a media event today, announcing that the atlas has been completed.
The project can also play a key role in “30×30” Work hard to encourage countries to agree to an initiative to protect 30% of marine and land areas by 2030. In October, countries will consider the 2030 biodiversity target at the two-part United Nations Biodiversity Summit, called the Convention of the Parties 15 or COP15. COP15 will end next spring.President Biden Committed To the 30×30 protection goal of the United States (The more well-known COP26 summit of the same name solved the problem of climate change and started in November.)
The atlas will support other Allen-related projects to save coral reefs.In September last year, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation joined the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the co-founders of the German government and other co-founders create this Global Coral Reef Fund. This work is trying to raise millions of dollars to fund coral conservation projects.
Time is of the utmost importance to protect these fragile marine ecosystems. Research shows that by 2050, all coral reefs may disappear.
“We learned through Coral Atlas and other projects that there is hope,” Cooper said.
“We are all optimists and think we can bring changes to coral reefs,” he said. “It will use all these different means-science, technology, data, policy development, resources-but by combining all of these together, we think we can play a real role in protecting and restoring coral reefs.”