Could online maps save coral reefs?
You used to know them as maps, but in a Web 2.0 world they're now
called geographic information systems (GIS) and they could play a key
part in saving the world's endangered coral reefs.
From the Coral Triangle to the Caribbean, Reefs at Risk Revisted
will use colour-coded maps to show threats to coral reefs.
Harnessing the power of interactive maps is Reefs at Risk Revisited,
a conservation and research project headed by the World Resources
Institute. It is in the process of updating its 1998 survey on the
threats to the world's coral reefs and central to the project is Google
The online map is being used to collect data from nearly 30 project
partners, including WWF and Conservation International, and the final
report will be freely available to the public.
People will be able to zoom around the world as they normally would,
but instead of "flying" from their house to Pyongyang they will be able
to almost literally dive into the reefs and discover the pressures on
some of the world's most delicate marine ecosystems.
The Indian Ocean has become much more threatened than it was 10 years
Lauretta Burke who heads the project for the World Resources
Institute is enthusiastic about the way in which interactive maps have
enabled her team to gain more information and show it in an informative
and engaging way.
"The new maps will be 64 times as detailed as the previous report,"
she told CNN.
"The sharing of information has also improved [between research
groups], which has allowed us to be aware of what has worked and how to
replicate those success stories."
The project looks at four main threats to coral reefs - marine-based
threats, over-fishing, coastal development, and land-based sources of
pollution - in six main coral reef regions. Each threat will be colour-coded
and information on specific areas can be clicked on and explored.
One new element that will be included in the report will be the
impact of climate change, with information on warming seas and ocean
acidification. While there have been success stories in managing coral
reefs, the latest research has provided some cause for concern.
"The Indian Ocean has become much more threatened than it was 10
years ago," said Burke.
"And the Pacific, which was a relatively low threat area 10 years
ago, has increased a lot.
The other striking finding is of the four local threats it's
over-fishing that has really increased the most."
Burke says that it isn't just sea-life that will be highlighted on
the map, but the dangers to communities that depend on reefs, be it
through tourism or fishing, for their livelihood.
The final report that will be published in September will also look
to the future, to 2030 and 2050, projecting what may happen to coral
reef communities and what could be done to help them survive additional
"The main message is that if we don't reduce our emissions of CO2 in
the atmosphere... we will lose these ecosystems," said Burke.
Burke also hopes the maps will be used by the public as well as
conservation groups that could use them to focus their campaigns on
highly-threatened locations. Burke has used the maps herself to pick a
diving vacation spot and thinks eco-minded tourists could easily do the
same. The IMAX film "Coral Reef Adventure" based their shooting
locations on Reefs at Risk information. "We do hope [the project] will
be used as leverage for more investment in coastal management and more
focus on it," said Burke."The importance is in reducing local pressures,
particularly of over-fishing, so that we can create more resilient
systems that might be able to survive these times of elevated CO2 and
increased warming." - CNN