With the state of the climate and in particular the world’s oceans currently the most fragile they have ever been in recorded history, we’ll be spending this month looking at a tool that allows users to visually comprehend the vast, and in some ways incomprehensible, extent of global warming’s effect on marine ecosystems. The worldwide prevalence and continuing spread of coral bleaching (the death of corals as a result of increasing oceanic water temperatures) is perhaps one of the most striking and apparent physical symptoms of the planet’s changes since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. This month we’re putting the spotlight on ReefBase and specifically their online GIS program, ReefGIS.
ReefBase is an online database for information about coral reefs. The organization, “gathers available knowledge about coral reefs into one information repository. It is intended to facilitate analysis and monitoring of coral reef health and the quality of life of reef-dependent people, and to support informed decisions about coral reef use and management.” According to their website (www.reefbase.org), there exists a wide disparity in the scientific information compiled at different coral reef areas throughout the oceans:
“Sophisticated methods to quantify the deterioration of coral reefs have been initiated in some areas, while hardly any assessment or monitoring activities exist in others. Information from these activities is usually published in the primary scientific literature and may not be readily available or understood by a non-technical reader.”
As the official database of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, ReefBase seeks to create one centralized location for coral reef information that is organized and explained in a way that’s accessible to the general public. As we’ve seen in previous editions of Mapping for Good, often times there is no better way to explain a statistical pattern or trend to non-academic communities (and even within them) than through the visual aid of mapped data. This notion is central to the mission of ReefBase’s ReefGIS system, which is an online Geographic Information System that was developed to display coral reef related data and information on interactive maps in your web browser.” ReefGIS allows you to zoom in to a given area, toggle between various layers of spatial data and save maps for viewing or printing down the road.
With the ability to actually see the extent of events like coral bleaching on both a local and global scale, as well as countless other spatial layers, ReefGIS is a tool that we hope everyone will take the time to check out. If you’d like to learn more about ReefGIS and try it out yourself, head to reefgis.reefbase.org.