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NASA will launch a new research program that will use high-tech imagery to take an extensive view at the coral reef all around the world.
The aim of the study is to make a map of the coral reef, which may help researchers to understand the changes that influence the marine ecosystems. Moreover, reefs are extremely sensitive to climate change and their preservation is crucial to human habitat.
The research team will focus on the reefs of Mariana Islands, Palau, Hawaii and the Great Barrier Reef from Australia.
Until now, scientists studied corals only by underground explorations and by taking direct samples from the waters.
The new approach will bring a wider view of the coral reefs as the images will be taken from 23,000 feet above the waters. The name of the project is CORAL – Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory. The campaign is programmed to last three years, and it will use special monitoring instruments.
The researchers hope to discover how pollution, acidification, and global warming influence the coral reefs. They want to create detailed models of how a reef ecosystem works. In order to do so, they will match the view from atop with baseline measurements in order to validate the data.
The instrument that will be used is PRISM, a portable remote imaging spectrometer that will be loaded into an uninhabited aerial vehicle and transported above the Pacific zone.
The coral reefs bear an enormous importance to humans. Not only they are tourist attractions, but they also constitute a habitat for the fish that are consumed by the population. Another one of their roles is to protect the lines of the shores against storms and the rising ocean levels.
More than this, scientists managed to extract medicinal substances from corals, including a painkiller that does not cause addiction.
The study is a part of the sustainable strategy approach, and the research team will try to develop theories and models that will support later interventions dedicated to saving and preserving coral reefs around the world.
A report from the International Society for Reef Studies shows that more than 50% of coral reefs were destroyed by both local factors and global warming. The degradation happened abruptly in a couple of decades.
Researchers involved in this project say that the new data will prove to be precious for the conservation community and the international scientists.
Consequently, all information will be made publicly available. Once all details are registered, the researchers will need another six months to process the data.
The traditional approach involves scientists going directly into the water in order to collect samples and make measurements. Even though the new method will not completely exclude the need for diving, it will offer additional information at a faster pace than that which was possible until now.
Image Source: Wikipedia