Allen Coral Atlas completes map of the world’s coral reefs using satellite imagery

Unique Partnership Delivers Critical Data to Those Who Are Protecting Coral Reefs From Decline

(Tempe, AZ) – The Allen Coral Atlas partners today announced that after three years, 450+ research teams and counting, and two million satellite images, the habitat mapping of the world’s shallow coral reefs is complete. Combined with the Atlas’ monitoring system launched earlier this year, the Allen Coral Atlas is now the most complete, consistent, accurate and continually updated resource for coral scientists, policy makers and regional planners.

An Allen Coral Atlas partner looks at a map during development of the Atlas. Photo credit: Allen Coral Atlas.

The future of coral reefs hangs in the balance, with 50 percent already lost to bleaching caused by increased water temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and destructive overfishing. These highly vulnerable coral reef systems provide safety, nutrition and economic security for more than one billion people. Globally, scientists and governments are scrambling to plan and implement conservation efforts and they need accurate data on the location and status of their reefs.

Using a consistent mapping process, the completed Atlas provides the first-ever, high-resolution spatial and thematic detailed map of all the world’s shallow coral reefs. Only 25 percent of reefs had been previously mapped at this high-resolution detail and there was no consistent methodology applied across all global regions.

Allen Coral Atlas Habitat Maps – Geomorphic Map of Red Sea

The Atlas partnership brings together unique capabilities to create a seamless process that produces high quality benthic and geomorphic map layers. Planet provides continuously updated high-resolution imagery from its constellation of 200+ satellites. ASU then cleans the images for atmosphere and water distortion. University of Queensland applies machine learning and local reference data to generate the detailed map layers, and National Geographic Society provides training and engages with conservationists on how to best use the maps. Paul Allen’s company Vulcan funded and managed the Atlas website development and engaged with government officials.

Officials from 14 countries are collaborating with Atlas team members, working on 48 new marine planning projects using the Atlas maps as their foundational data set. In addition to marine spatial planning, the maps are being used to aid in hurricane recovery, to inform proposed policies for fishing regulations, identify pollution and run-off sources, and document destruction due to ship groundings and other threats to coral reef habitats.

“Combining these new maps with the reef bleaching detection system that we released in May, the Atlas is a vital, comprehensive tool,” said Asner. “It is a dynamic, global resource available to marine managers, conservationists and policy makers who can take action to safeguard coral reefs for generations to come.”

Read more about this achievement from the Allen Coral Atlas here.

International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), 10 September 2021. Full article.

1 Response to “Allen Coral Atlas completes map of the world’s coral reefs using satellite imagery”


  1. 1 John Rowe 11 September 2021 at 02:18

    Brilliant wonderful what a great achievement


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