Now you can track coral bleaching from the comfort of your couch
Coral reefs are Extremely important habitats that support a wide variety of life forms in the world. However, human pressures – through a combination of warming and nutrient pollution – increase the frequency and extent of whitening episodes. However, tracking bleaching events has been particularly challenging because they can occur quickly over large areas that cannot be easily delineated via scuba diving.
To help solve this problem, Allen’s Coral Atlasan online platform that allows visitors to virtually explore coral reefs (see my previous coverage of this here) intervened. Specifically, they recently launched a new program in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coral reef monitoring predict and monitor coral bleaching using changes in coral coloration observed via Planet Dove satellite images.
The bleaching monitoring program is already being used to protect coral reefs in Hawai’i, where scientists can study areas affected by heat waves and then note where and how much corals are bleaching in examining areas of “observed brightening” on a weekly basis.
This technological development is the first of its kind, as no coral bleaching monitoring program has been able to track such a large expanse of coral reefs and can be used so easily in multiple locations around the world.
According to NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator Mark Eakin, “It’s like a tornado warning for corals and it allows us as reef managers to take precautionary measures such as closing dive sites or shade corals to reduce stress during warming events.”