Reef scientists across the Pacific have worked together to create a digital tool that uses machine learning and advanced analysis to rapidly extract and share data from images of coral reefs anywhere in the world.
Launched on the eve of the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, ReefCloud is a user-friendly, open-access platform poised to revolutionize global coral reef monitoring and management by allowing the world’s coral reef monitoring community to work together, in real time.
ReefCloud standardizes data collected from around the world, analyzing coral reef composition with 80-90 percent accuracy, 700 times faster than traditional manual assessment, saving weeks and months of labour and freeing precious reef management resources. It was developed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in collaboration with Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Fiji, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), University of South Pacific, Queensland University of Technology, Marine Ecology Consulting, Maldives Marine Research Institute and CO2 Consulting, with in kind support from Accenture,
Speaking at the launch at PICRC, Australian Ambassador for the Environment Jamie Isbister said ReefCloud brought a transformative change to the way we monitored our coral reefs and came at a critical time for global reef protection. It also included engagement with indigenous communities, many of whom play a key role in marine monitoring.
“Coral reefs are rapidly declining, with climate change being their single greatest threat globally,” Mr Isbister said. “This platform is going to address key challenges by helping coral reef managers assess the condition of their reefs and take appropriate management actions.”
AIMS Research Team Lead and ReefCloud Director Dr Manuel Gonzalez Rivero said ReefCloud was the “democratization of knowledge”.
“We’re partnering with the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) to support a transformation in coral reef monitoring,” he said.
“Last year, GCRMN released a global snapshot of coral reef condition which involved integrating reef monitoring efforts from 12,000 coral reef sites in 73 countries. With limited human resources it took years to painstakingly reconcile inconsistent data formats and methodologies. ReefCloud can automate that process, providing up-to-date information within hours, which leads to more timely and informed decisions on actions to improve the long-term sustainability of our coral reefs.”
ReefCloud is a A$6.6M program, jointly funded by AIMS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT has provided an additional $200,000 to engage indigenous communities, many of whom play a key role in marine monitoring.
In a joint mission to save the world’s coral reefs, CORAL is officially partnering with ReefCloud and is looking forward to working with this new technology that will help us keep reefs healthy.