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Large-Scale Mapping of Live Corals To Guide Reef Conservation

December 14, 2020

In the face of challenges faced by core reefs, we developed an mapping approach and deep learning models to better understand the distribution of live corals throughout the main Hawaiian islands.

Coral is the life-form that underpins the habitat of most tropical reef ecosystems, thereby supporting biological diversity throughout the marine realm.

Coral reefs are undergoing rapid change from ocean warming and nearshore human activities, compromising a myriad of services provided to societies including coastal protection, fishing, and cultural practices.

In the face of these challenges, large-scale operational mapping of live coral cover within and across reef ecosystems could provide more opportunities to address reef protection, resilience, and restoration at broad management- and policy-relevant scales.

We developed an airborne mapping approach combining laser-guided imaging spectroscopy and deep learning models to quantify, at a large archipelago scale, the geographic distribution of live corals to 16-m water depth throughout the main Hawaiian islands.

Mapped interisland and intraisland variation in live coral location improves our understanding of reef geography and its human impacts, thereby guiding environmental management for reef resiliency.


Asner GP, Vaughn NR, Heckler J, Knapp DE, Balzotti C, Shafron E, Martin RE, Neilson BJ, Gove JM. 2020. Large-scale mapping of live corals to guide reef conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117(52):33711-33718. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2017628117.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 12/09/2021

Coral Reefs