A NASA-funded project has created an archive of approximately 1,500 images of worldwide coral reefs. The archive is a tool international researchers will use, as they track reef health.

The collection of coral reef images is the basis for a new Internet-based library for the Millennium Coral Reef Project. It was created in a partnership between NASA and the University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, Fla. Additional contributors, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, international agencies and other universities, shared data, so natural resource managers could have a comprehensive world data resource on coral reefs and adjacent land areas.

NASA contributed funding and satellite data to the project to develop global reef maps as a base for future research. The project will also serve as a library for coral reef remote sensing data. A distribution network has been developed to make the data available to organizations around the world. Current knowledge of the total area and locations of coral reefs is not adequate to see changes that occur in them.

“The archive is our first completed product and will immediately provide data to improve local assessments of reef resources around the world,” said Julie A. Robinson, project manager for the Earth Observations Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. “This data archive provides access to a reliable global satellite dataset for mapping coral reefs.”

From 1999 to 2003, the Landsat 7 satellite took 1,490 images of coral reefs to complete the required global coverage. The Landsat 7 Science Team specifically scheduled observations of many reef areas for the first time. The U.S. Geological Survey manages Landsat.

The Institute for Marine Remote Sensing at USF, St. Petersburg, Fla., assembled the images and data. “There has been amazing cooperation at all levels to assemble this data,” said Frank Muller-Karger of USF.

“It will serve as a source of data for projects around the world,” said Serge Andréfouët, who led data collection and mapping at USF. He is now with the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in New Caledonia.

USF, in collaboration with JSC, is characterizing, mapping and estimating the extent of shallow coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean-Atlantic, Pacific, Indo-Pacific and Red Sea using the Landsat images. The archive highlights similarities and differences between reef structures at a scale never before considered by traditional field studies.

Other partners include the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the World Fish Center’s ReefBase Project.

“Estimates of the extent, health and even the location of the world’s coral reefs are completely inadequate to answer the key question about how the reefs and the fragile ecosystems they support are adapting to a changing environment. This newly released dataset will help provide the baseline against which future observations can be compared,” said Gene Carl Feldman, SeaWiFS Project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The SeaWiFS Project at Goddard developed the archive and online data interface.

The final map products are due for release in early 2005. To access the raw archive on the Internet, visit:

For more information and images about this release, visit: