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Coastal Zone Authority to upgrade Belize’s maritime habitat map

Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2020. 4:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) has been selected for a grant from Microsoft to upgrade the national marine habitat map, in use since 1997.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Belize National Marine Habitat Map Project is spearheaded by Institute Director Arlene Young, designated principal investigator, supported by CEO Chantalle Samuels; manager of geographic information systems (GIS) Andria Rosado, Dr. Emil Cherrington and Robert Griffin.

The proposal was one of five from among 60 applications submitted to the Secretariat of Group on Earth Observations’ Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). The Government of Belize is a member of the inter-governmental Group on Earth Observations, essentially a club of countries making use of satellite data for societal benefit.

In early 2020, Microsoft’s AI for Earth and the GEO BON launched the program “Essential Biodiversity Variables in the Cloud”. The purpose of the new US$1 million grant program is to provide financial support and Microsoft Azure credits to monitor Earth’s biodiversity.

The Institute proposes to “use Microsoft Azure for machine learning-based mapping of the Essential Biodiversity Variable (EBV) of ecosystem extent and fragmentation. The project’s geographic focus will be Belize’s coastal and marine ecosystems, with particular attention focused on coral reefs, seagrass pastures, and mangrove ecosystems. These ecosystems are recognized for their blue carbon focus and potential to contribute to Belize’s climate change mitigation efforts. Via this proposed work, Belize’s 1997 30m Landsat-based National Marine Habitat Map will be updated, using a combination of 3m Planet Scope and 10m Sentinel-2 imagery.

As such, the data will provide updated estimates of the status of Belize’s major coastal and marine ecosystems. In addition to helping inform Belize’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, the data will also support the country’s implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and will be integrated into the revision of the national Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan. Capacity building will also be a key focus of the project through knowledge-transfer workshops which will help to sustain and extend the technical capacity of CZMAI in the field of cloud computing.”

It will be a partnership between CZMAI and GRH Consulting, LLC, Alabama, U.S.A.

We’ll have more from the Institute from whom we have sought comment in a subsequent story.


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