Coral reef health may be accurately estimated from sensors on airplanes and satellites in the future, according to a NASA scientist who is the principal investigator in a collaborative project to develop a method to remotely sense coral health.
Checking Coral Health Researchers using handheld spectroradiometer measure reflected light readings from Acropora palmata, or elkhorn coral to determine the reef health in the Bahamas. The collected data is compared to the reading taken during aerial surveys. Credit: NASA Ames
Elkhorn Coral Acropora palmata, or elkhorn coral exhibiting white band disease. Acropora palmata is a major reef-building coral prevalent in the Bahamas, but is suffering from white band disease. Elkhorn coral has severely declined in many areas of the Caribbean and may be on the verge of becoming an endangered species. Credit: NASA Ames
Sometimes called the "bellwether of the seas," coral reefs can give first indications of marine ecosystem health. "Scientists can use coral health as a sensitive indicator of the health of the marine environment," said Liane Guild, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
"Were looking into how you could remotely detect coral reef health using aircraft with visible light sensors," Guild said. "First, we have to look at the coral close up, underwater, to see what spectral reflectance the sensor picks up from diseased, stressed and healthy coral."
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