Scientists have completed the first-ever global, high-resolution map of the world’s shallow tropical coral reefs. The map is part of the Allen Coral Atlas, an open-access, user-friendly coral reef monitoring platform, which is now the most comprehensive, consistent, and continually updated resource available, according to the developers.

Although coral reefs cover only 1 percent of the ocean floor, they are home to one-quarter of all marine species. They also provide coastal protection, economic security, and dietary protein for hundreds of millions of people.

However, coral reefs are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Over just the past five years, marine heat waves have triggered three mass coral bleaching events that have contributed to the loss of 50 percent of corals in some locations.

With pressure on scientists, reef managers, and policymakers to implement conservation measures to safeguard these important ecosystems, access to timely and accurate data on the location and status of reefs is vital.

The new mapping platform, which includes a bleaching detection tool — launched earlier this year and which tracks coral bleaching events in near-real-time — provides an unprecedented overview of the trends and changes in global coral reef health, says the development team, which comprises scientists, technologists and data managers from Arizona State University (ASU), the University of Queensland in Australia, the National Geographic Society, Planet, and Vulcan.

While the completion of the mapping platform is an achievement in itself, the scientists behind the platform say they hope the new resource will spur action to improve coral reef protection.

Read the full article about mapping coral reef help by Carolyn Cowan at Eco-Business.