Natural resource managers around the world desperately need maps of coral reefs and adjacent land areas. The current level of knowledge about such simple measures as the total area and locations of coral reefs in the world is not sufficient as a baseline for monitoring change. Regional studies attempting to identify the risk factors for decline of coral reefs are also faced with inadequate maps of reefs and adjacent land uses. At the same time, local managers clamor for detailed reef habitat maps for monitoring smaller scale changes in reef communities. These managers are making daily decisions that impact the health of coral reefs and the economies of the communities that depend on them.
In a NASA-sponsored partnership between remote sensing scientists, international agencies and NGOs, new efforts are being made to (1) develop baseline global reef maps that can be a foundation for future more detailed investigations, (2) assemble the key baseline remote sensing data that is needed for researchers to study coral reef environments, and (3) partner with international organizations to use remote sensing data for applied science problems and improve the management of coral reefs.