Scientists are warning that the Earth's coral reefs could be extinct within 100 years or less if nothing is done to slow down climate change and Man’s plundering of the sea.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide depend on the reefs for their food and their livelihoods.
Faced with this threat, a team of scientists in Australia is undertaking a wide scale photographic survey of Southeast Asia’s Coral Triangle, using cutting-edge camera technology to gather data on key indicators like health, diversity, decline and resilience.
“The thing that we doing differently is taking a lot more pictures with our automated self-driven camera and we’re analysing them and hopefully much a quicker way using an automated analysis. The reason why this is important is because coral reef science just really isn’t analysing enough of the surface of the coral reefs to be able to understand what’s going on,” says Benjamin Neal, lead researcher at the Global Change Institute at University of Queensland.
Traditionally, marine biologists conduct use simple tape measures to survey reefs. But the Catlin Seaview Survey’s SVII camera rig travels at 4km an hour, taking a 360-degree image every three seconds. The photos are then stitched together and published online.
The scientists believe reliable data is a vital first step towards mitigating human impact on the reefs.
“The time is now to take action because these are really important facts that affect the base ability of corals to maintain life. And if we don’t do something about that, it’‘ll certainly have an effect on the world’s coral reefs,” says the Institute’s Benjamin Neal.
This first-of-its-kind database is freely available online, allowing scientists around the world to collaborate on understanding changes to coral reefs as a result of over-exploitation, pollution and climate change.
It’s estimated that between one third and one half of corals around the world have been lost in the last 50 years.