Mapping Caribbean Coral Reefs for Conservation Action

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean and Planet, the Asner Lab is working to create the first ever high-resolution map of the shallow waters of the Caribbean Basin. The goal of this project is to aid coral reef restoration and protection through a better understanding of these ecosystems.

To date, the Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) has completed data-gathering missions of both healthy and degraded coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. Eventually, this aerial imaging and mapping will be conducted throughout the Caribbean and the data will be used to create detailed coastal ecosystem maps.

In addition to the GAO’s maps, this project also includes analyzing pre- and post-storm satellite imagery on hurricane-affected islands, such as St. Croix. By comparing satellite images provided by Planet to the GAO’s imagery, researchers will be able to accurately assess the impact of catastrophic hurricanes on coral reef ecosystems. In order to validate and verify the accuracy of the satellite and aerial mapping, field data is also being collected using drones, drop cameras, and SCUBA divers. This approach will provide complex layers of information for multiple scales ranging from outer space to ocean depths.

Upon completion, these data and maps will be shared with governments, conservation partners, and regional stakeholders to inform resource management for coral reef protection and restoration. The maps will also be used to more comprehensively understand the economic value and benefits that coastal habitats provide to people, recreation activities, tourism, and fisheries. The project seeks to influence the establishment of new marine protected areas, management plans for existing areas, and post-hurricane restoration and protection activities for coral reefs, such as plans for coral nurseries, planting, and spawning.

Project Website

The Nature Conservancy


The Nature Conservancy
Puntacana Foundation

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