NASA aims to survey coral reefs using remote sensing

NASA aims to survey coral reefs using remote sensing


US: According to a popular study, if 33-50 per cent of the world’s coral reefs have been degraded or lost due to climate change and human impacts, most of the functioning reef ecosystems may well disappear by mid-century.

Therefore, to estimate the extent of damage to coral reefs, NASA has embarked on an air-borne three-year field experiment called The COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL), that aims to survey the conditions of the major reefs of the world through remote-sensing.

Dr. Erich Hochberg, who is a scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George, will survey with his team, the condition of the entire reef systems in Hawaii, Palau, the Mariana Islands and Australia. The regions were chosen because they represent a wide range of reef types (fringing, barrier, atoll, oceanic and continental) and a wide range of environmental conditions (from pristine to heavily impacted).

The project CORAL will involve the aerial deployment of a spectrometer called PRISM (Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer), which is being developed and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It will detect the spectral signature of the various components of a reef such as coral, algae, sand etc., which will enable assessment of the condition of the reef.

“CORAL will focus on the data collected during the investigation. Hopefully, future investigations can increase the coverage,” noted Dr. Hochberg. “The project has begun, but data collection has not. We are still in the planning and preparation stage,” he added.

Coral reefs are home to a quarter of all ocean fish species. They protect shorelines from storms and provide food for millions of people, yet very little of the world's reef area has been studied scientifically. Virtually all measurements have been made by expensive, labour-intensive diving expeditions. Many reefs have never been surveyed, and those reefs that have been studied were measured only at a few dive sites.

Source: The Hindu