SYDNEY – Australia released the first high-resolution seafloor maps showing 1.5 million square kilometers of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system, according to official sources on Friday.
The maps are the product of a collaborative project between James Cook University, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Hydrographic Service, initiated by researcher Robin Beaman from James Cook University in 2009.
“The dataset we’ve released today maps the entire Great Barrier Reef with data that is around eight times higher resolution than what was available previously,” the chief of the Geoscience Australia’s Environmental Geoscience Division, Dr. Stuart Minchin, said in a statement.
The cutting-edge scientific techniques to combine historical and newly-acquired bathymetry (undersea mapping) data of the entire northern coastline of Australia were used to obtain a 30-meter deep high resolution model.
“The grids we’ve built will enhance our understanding of the terrain of the sea floor in shallow waters off the coast of northern Australia,” Beaman said in the statement.
The new oceanographic modeling will contribute to improving knowledge of climate change impacts, marine biodiversity and species distribution, as well as to identify new reef structures and coral formations.
“Having greater knowledge of the shape of the reef will be a critical tool for the government agencies responsible for its protection,” added Minchin.
The Great Barrier Reef, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, suffered two consecutive bleaching episodes in 2016 and 2017, which caused much damage to the corals.
The Great Barrier Reef includes 3,000 reefs and more than 1,000 islands, stretching over 2,000 km and is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks.