For the first time, the Great Coral Reef will be mapped in unmatched 3D detail thanks to the collaboration between leading Australian reef leaders and space specialists.
The University of Queensland and the Great Coral Reef Marine Park teamed up to use top satellite imagery and other mapping information that is larger than Italy.
Dr. Chris Roelfsema and Professor Stuart Phinn from UQ's Remote Research Center believe the project is revolutionary and essential.
"The large coral reef is the largest living structure of the planet, but there are no biological or geomorphic maps of all the individual reefs that make the ridge," Dr. Roelfsem said.
"There has been some effort to map the ridge since 1802, but today's charts only emphasize the location of 3000 ridges that make up the ridge, without critical biological and geomorphological information.
"Thanks to the technological advancement, we are now able to combine state-of-the-art satellite imagery, batimetry, slope, climatic data, modeling techniques, and our own environmental knowledge of reefs to fill these gaps."
The director of the reef knowledge of the Big Coral Reef Ridge Roger Beeden said that it was a gear reel management, including the way managers looked at reef monitoring and rebuilding.
"This mapping adds to more than 20 years of remote research professionals and combines the knowledge of ecologists, reef leaders and scientists," he said.
"Developing detailed layers of habitat mapping will immensely help in the way we handle the ridge and will support all future reef tracking and modeling.
"Maps will be used as a basic layer in the development of the Ridge Knowledge System, which is an on-line component of visualization of the integrated reef tracking and reporting program in 2050.
"The knowledge system will provide access to spatial and technical information for routing and decision-making on the management of resistance."
Researcher Dr. Eva Kovacs said that the satellites crossed the ridge every five days, capturing multi-spectral data with high spatial resolution.
"In co-operation with one of our project partners, the Earth Observation Company and EOMAP, we will combine data from satellites with field validation data to confirm the reef composition," Dr. Kovacs said.
"This will allow us to make a very detailed picture of the middle coast and outer reefs at depths of up to 10 meters.
"These are invaluable data for anyone interested in the Great Coral Reef – from government to conservation groups.
"We are incredibly excited about the co-operation on this project to deliver charts of history."
A new habitat mapping approach will be introduced for the next 18 months and the maps will be available in 2021.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr. Juan Oritz, said that as project partners will develop ecological models for generating additional maps.
"We will use field observations and waves data to create maps of areas dominated by different types of corals for each ridge," said Dr Oritz.
The project will be conducted by the University of Queensland, with the support of EOMAP and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The 2050 Integrated Reform Monitoring and Reporting Program is supported by the Australian Government Foundation Foundation.