NASA is planning to map coral reef systems from the sky. The data will help understand the impact of environmental changes on delicate and crucial ecosystems.
The widespread die-off of coral reef systems is worrying scientists. Many studies have been conducted before which truly reflect the damage done to delicate coral reefs and also predict their gruesome future. But all these studies are carried out underwater looking at the small portions of a larger ecosystem.
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Now, NASA researchers are aiming to get one step further. They will take broader images of major coral reef systems from about 23,000 feet above and use the imaging data to understand the impact of environmental changes on delicate and important ecosystems. Since global warming is linked to recent coral bleaching events, it becomes even important to start such kind of project on urgent basis.
The project, named Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory or CORAL, will continue for three years and will collect new data on coral reefs like nothing we have before.
“CORAL will provide the most extensive picture to date of the condition of a large portion of the world’s coral reefs from a uniform data set. The data will reveal trends between coral reef condition and biogeophysical forcings, both natural and those arising from human activities.” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in the blog.
Using specially designed instruments installed in an aircraft, scientists will map coral reef systems around the world. They will process the airborne spectral image data to determine the variables responsible for damaging coral reefs.
“The idea is to get a new perspective on coral reefs from above, to study them at a larger scale than we have been able to before and then relate reef condition to the environment.” Principle investigator Eric Hochberg from Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences said.
Environmental changes such as global warming, acidification and pollution wreak havoc on coral reef systems. The Great Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef system in the world, has suffered the worst bleaching event on record. Almost 93% of reefs on the Great Barrier Reef have been hit by coral bleaching, according to a latest research and experts suspect other coral reef systems are also going through more or less same situation. The image data taken from the sky will help better predict the future of the coral reef systems and will provide a baseline for conversation efforts.
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