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Scientists construct map of all Caribbean coral reefs

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Posted: Friday, December 11, 2020. 3:00 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Scientists from The Nature Conservancy have completed a project of region-wide mapping of all the shallow water coral reefs in the Caribbean.

The project is significant because, for the first time, such a map provides a detailed picture of the underwater habitats of the Caribbean.

“You cannot protect what you don’t know is there. Having access to these maps is a game-changing achievement for the Caribbean,” said Dr. Robert Brumbaugh, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Division. “Thirty countries and territories finally have access to better, more detailed information about their underwater habitats to help them better protect marine areas, support sustainable livelihoods and prioritize their adaptation to potential climate change impacts. Understanding and protecting natural resources is critical to the economic success of these countries.”

The Nature Conservancy scientists, working with the Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, worked with Planet Labs to stitch together more than 38,000 high-resolution satellite images.

A study by TNC published in 2019 found that approximately half of all livelihoods in the Caribbean region depended on healthy nearshore and coastal habitats — with coral reefs and reef-associated activities generating almost $8 billion in economic value to the tourism industry — and drawing around 11 million visitors to the Caribbean.

The organization says the maps are meant to “inform a diverse array of conservation and policy decisions to protect and restore these essential coastal areas that people depend on.”

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