Caribbean Marine Maps
To advance ocean conservation and climate adaptation for the 44 million people who call the Caribbean home, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners used innovative technologies to develop a set of maps including satellite imagery, airborne imagery, and data from drones and divers.
- Benthic habitat maps can be used for reliably modeling the economic value of coral reef ecosystem services, including flood reduction, coastal protection, and fisheries; identifying vulnerable coastal communities where habitats can be restored to provide critical protection from erosion and storms; and informing marine spatial plans.
- Airborne imagery can be used to derive spatial data such as live coral cover and habitat complexity, or rugosity, including to help identify specific locations to outplant corals to maximize survival rates. Drones and divers are deployed to inform and validate habitat information from satellites and airborne imagery.
- The Caribbean benthic maps represent the first-ever 4m visualization of shallow benthic habitats across the Caribbean basin and were produced from a mosaic of Planetscope Dove Classic satellite scenes acquired between 2017–2019. The mapping method used an object-oriented classification based on a rule-based algorithm that integrated the reflectance, depth, and geomorphic zone information.
The airborne imagery comes from Arizona State University's Global Airborne Observatory, which is an airborne laboratory that collects high resolution (1m) coral health and habitat information to inform effective coral outplanting site selection with increased survivorship. TNC's scientists collect underwater videos and high-resolution imagery using drones to inform and validate satellite and airborne data-derived products. These field data are used to train machine-learning algorithms that classify habitat types and conditions. Drones with RGB (natural color) cameras can be used to map and monitor smaller reef tracts (less than 5 square kilometers) on a regular basis. The data generated by drones are helpful for detecting species at the colony level and assessing damage after a storm.
TNC and partners are working to reveal and understand coral health at different scales to answer a range of questions for resource managers, governments, and conservationists. Scientists are collecting data using different technologies and platforms, each of which provides an important layer of information to inform marine conservation and management initiatives.