Mapping the world’s coral reefs

Understanding where coral reefs are and monitoring their changes is an important part of conserving these special marine habitats. Although they occupy just a small proportion of the world’s oceans, they harbour an enormous diversity of marine life. They also support the livelihoods of fishing communities and protect coastlines from the damaging effects of climate change.

On the doorstep of A Rocha Kenya’s field study centre, Mwamba, lies Watamu Marine National Park. Established in 1968, it is one of Kenya’s oldest marine parks. Over a period of three months, A Rocha Kenya’s marine team checked coral reefs in the park assigned to them by the the Allen Coral Atlas project and then used their SCUBA gear and research boat ‘Tewa’ to document specific details, such as percentage coral cover. Their data contributed to the development of a global map of coral reefs.

In September, maps of the world’s tropical, shallow coral reefs were completed, marking a major milestone for the Atlas. Thanks to this global collaboration of more than 450 teams who led expeditions and contributed data, we have information about this marine ecosystem in unprecedented detail, which are downloadable and accessible to all. Now organizations like A Rocha Kenya have a new tool to guide their conservation efforts.