Health of coral reefs detected from orbit

coverage constraints. We need a system that has appropriate coverage and revisit frequency, with a sufficient amount of spectral bands and sensitivity. There is no more suitable system than MERIS."

The team studied Heron Island reef at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, site of a University of Queensland research station. Validating MERIS Full Resolution mode results, they found that observed changes in live coral cover were correlated to an existing bleaching event.

Theoretical studies indicate that for each complete 300-metre pixel of coral under one metre of water it is possible to detect a 2% bleaching of live coral. MERIS should remain sensitive to detecting from 7-8% bleached coral even under ten metres of water.

"MERIS Full Resolution covers the world every three days, a bottleneck for global monitoring could be data processing," Dekker concludes. "However satellite sensors measuring sea surface temperature such as Envisat's Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) can be applied to prioritise reefs that are subject to sea temperature heating anomalies-thus focusing the MERIS based bleaching detection.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has expressed interest in the project. Australian scientists plan to progress to perform MERIS monitoring of bleaching events up to the scale of the whole Great Barrier Reef.


Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

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