Environment Ministry to use satellite to map coral reefs in Asia, Oceania

The number of coral reefs, which nurture a wide diversity of marine wildlife, has been decreasing on a global scale in recent years. The ministry hopes that the map will help designate coral protection zones and predict changes in their condition over the longer term.

This is the first project in the world in which a satellite is being used to survey the distribution of coral reefs.

The ministry has already compiled maps of coral reef distribution using aerial photos and data gained in on-the-spot surveys, but it is time-consuming work. Agency officials have deemed that the most efficient way to grasp the entire picture of coral reef distribution on a global scale is to use images from a satellite.

The Environment Ministry has already developed a method of using images from the Daichi earth observation satellite belonging to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to distinguish coral reefs from rocks and algae.

By comparing a new distribution map using images from the satellite with older maps, ministry officials say it will be possible to grasp and predict the long-term changes in coral reefs.

The ministry intends to create a map of coral reef distribution in the sea around Japan by the end of March next year, and a map covering the entire Asia-Oceania region within two years, say officials.

Experts fear that half of the coral reefs in the world are endangered because of bleaching as a result of a rise in sea water temperatures from global warming and the contamination of sea water.

Source Mainichi



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