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The Maldives Habitat Mapping Team, Sept. 2019 Credit: Hana Amir

Arizona may be a landlocked state, but that doesn’t mean we’re not having a big impact on the ocean!

The Center for Global Discovery and Conservation is working on some groundbreaking research around the world. The center is affiliated with Arizona State University and has locations in Tempe and Hawaii. It was part of a partnership that recently completed a comprehensive online map of the world’s coral reefs, known as the Allen Coral Atlas.

The atlas combines about two million satellite images with local data to create high-resolution maps of coral reefs all across the globe. Nearly 100,000 square miles of reefs in water up to 50 feet deep were mapped, and about three quarters of those reefs have never before been mapped with such detail or at all.

The atlas allows users to see detailed information about local reefs, including everything from coral to the sand, rocks and seagrass. The Allen Coral Atlas also includes information about coral bleaching, which allows researchers to monitor reefs that are stressed due to factors such as global warming.

 “It is a gratifying milestone after years of dedicated nonstop teamwork to bring this global map to fruition, but the true value of the work will come when coral conservationists are able to better protect coral reefs based on the high-resolution maps and monitoring system,” says Greg Asner, managing director of the Allen Coral Atlas at ASU. “We must double down and use this tool as we work to save coral reefs from the impacts of our climate crisis and other threats.”

ASU reports that there are already officials from 14 countries working with atlas team members to use the maps in marine planning projects.

The Allen Coral Atlas is named after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who funded the partnership behind the project. Allen reportedly wanted to help save the world’s coral reefs and liked the idea of using technology to make it happen—something the atlas will hopefully ensure!

October 2021