Could online maps save coral reefs?

Reefs at Risk is a World Resources Institute project that analyses current threats to coral reefs worldwide. The original groundbreaking report, released in 1998, provided a critical look at the world’s coral reefs and human impacts – coastal zone development, overfishing, sedimentation.


The next report, due this year (2010) is set to include a much more up to date analysis of global threats, including coral bleaching, disease and ocean acidification. This time, they are harnessing the power of Google Earth and Web 2.0:

Harnessing the power of interactive maps is Reefs at Risk Revisited, a conservation and research project headed by the World Resources Institute. It is in the process of updating its 1998 survey on the threats to the world’s coral reefs and central to the project is Google Earth.

The online map is being used to collect data from nearly 30 project partners, including WWF and Conservation International, and the final report will be freely available to the public.

People will be able to zoom around the world as they normally would, but instead of “flying” from their house to Pyongyang they will be able to almost literally dive into the reefs and discover the pressures on some of the world’s most delicate marine ecosystems.

Lauretta Burke who heads the project for the World Resources Institute is enthusiastic about the way in which interactive maps have enabled her team to gain more information and show it in an informative and engaging way.

“The new maps will be 64 times as detailed as the previous report,” she told CNN.

“The sharing of information has also improved [between research groups], which has allowed us to be aware of what has worked and how to replicate those success stories.”

More over at CNN (Hat-tip to Emily Beck).

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