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Detecting detrimental change in coral reefs
Date:1/26/2012

Over dinner on R.V. Calypso while anchored on the lee side of Glover's Reef in Belize, Jacques Cousteau told Phil Dustan that he suspected humans were having a negative impact on coral reefs. Dustana young ocean ecologist who had worked in the lush coral reefs of the Caribbean and Sinai Peninsulafound this difficult to believe. It was December 1974.

But Cousteau was right. During the following three-plus decades, Dustan, an ocean ecologist and biology professor at the University of Charleston in South Carolina, has witnessed widespread coral reef degradation and bleaching from up close. In the late 1970s Dustan helped build a handheld spectrometer, a tool to measure light given off by the coral. Using his spectrometer, Dustan could look at light reflected and made by the different organisms that comprised the living reefs. Since then, he has watched reefs deteriorate at an alarming rate. Recently he has found that Landsat offers a way to evaluate these changes globally. Using an innovative way to map how coral reefs are changing over time, Dustan now can find 'hotspots' where conservation efforts should be focused to protect these delicate communities.

Situated in shallow clear water, most coral reefs are visible to satellites that use passive remote sensing to observe Earth's surface. But coral reefs are complex ecosystems with coincident coral species, sand, and water all reflecting light. Dustan found that currently orbiting satellites do not offer the spatial or spectral resolution needed to distinguish between them and specifically classify coral reef composition. So instead of attempting to classify the inherently complex coral ecosystem to monitor their health, Dustan has instead started to look for changehow overall reflectance for a geographic location varies over time.

Dustan uses a time series of Landsat data to calculate something called temporal texturebasically a map showing where change has occurred based on statis
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Contact: Rani Gran
Rani.C.Gran@nasa.gov
301-286-2483
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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Detecting detrimental change in coral reefs
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