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To achieve detailed, worldwide views of the very small and widely scattered reefs, the Millennium Project team analyzed nearly 1700 images taken by the Landsat 7 spacecraft over four years. Computer processing of these data resulted in the coral reef inventory and maps that revealed detailed information about the structure of individual reefs.
The new study found that while the number of marine protected areas hasbeen increasing, the level of effective worldwide protection of coral reefs is small. The study also found that most protected zones are too small to provide protection for fish species that routinely swim outside the boundaries. Only a handful are big enough to protect fish and marine life that naturally range outside their boundaries.
"This research points out how much still needs to be done to protect coral reef ecosystems," said Frank Muller-Karger, one of the developers of the Millennium Project at the University of South Florida's Institute for Marine Remote Sensing in St. Petersburg . "Creating large reserves such as the new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is just such a step in the right direction." On June 15 , the United States created the largest protected marine area in the world, which includes 4,500 square miles of relatively undisturbed coral reef habitat.
"Natural resource managers around the world and conservation groups actively use these coral reef satellite views to advance a wide range of habitat protection projects," says Serge Andrefouet, who developed the methods to create the Millennium coral reef maps. Andrefouet, co-author of the Science article, studies reefs with remote-sensing technology at the French Institutde Recherche pour le Developpement in New Caledonia .
For more information and related images, please visit on the Web:http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/coral_assessment.html