Can high-tech mapping save the Great Barrier Reef?

Can high-tech mapping save the Great Barrier Reef?

We all know the age-old question if a tree falls in the forest with no ears to hear, does it make a sound?

Of course, the answer is yes, but it’s that same logic that applies to the dying coral of the Great Barrier Reef – if it dies but no one sees it, does it really die?

Richard Vevers of The Ocean Agency knew the only way to help people understand the impact humans have on coral is to show them.

The human impact

Vevers, a British underwater photographer, returned to one of his favorite reefs in American Samoa to find that only a year later, it had turned pure white.

The culprit? Coral bleaching.

Global warming causes this deadly process, which killed approximately 29 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s shallow-water coral last year alone. When the water becomes too warm it starves the coral, stealing its beautiful color and killing it.

Vevers knew people didn’t understand (or necessarily care) about the coral bleaching because they couldn’t see it happening – out of sight, out of mind.

So that’s how cameras are going to save the day.

Google maps of the Great Barrier Reef

Partnering with Google, The Ocean Agency designed a military-grade scooter with an underwater camera on top to help capture the reef in Google Street View format.

Not only would this allow the entire world to see the reef up close, but it would also revolutionize the way coral is studied and monitored.

A number of different teams from across the globe have joined in on the effort to map the Great Barrier Reef, each using different tactics.

The cost to save the coral

While these reef-saving programs are considered the only hope when it comes to saving the world’s coral, expeditions such as this don’t come cheap.

In fact, some estimates suggest it would cost one billion dollars a year for the next 10 years to even have a chance at saving the Great Barrier Reef…

It’s an emotional goal

Vevers believes that if people are able to see the Great Barrier Reef or any reef for that matter, they’ll be more emotionally invested in helping to save reefs.

The Ocean Agency’s “street view” of coral is now being used to study and document the state of reefs in 25 different countries across the globe and eventually the results will be made public.

If the world can see the sad state of coral, people will begin to understand what’s really at stake and work to make a difference.


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