The goal of the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) is to provide critical data and new models needed to analyze the status of coral reefs and to predict their future. CORAL will provide the most extensive picture to date of the condition of a large portion of the world’s coral reefs from a uniform data set. The data will reveal trends between coral reef condition and biogeophysical forcings, both natural and those arising from human activities. With this new understanding of reef condition, we can better predict the future of this global ecosystem and provide policy makers.
CORAL acquires airborne spectral image data using the Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) instrument installed in a commercial airplane Gulfstream-IV (G-IV) from Tempus Applied Solutions. In situ data are obtained to validate the remote observations. For each reef, the spectral image data are processed to provide the reef “condition” described by measurable quantities of benthic cover of coral, algae, and sand; primary productivity; and calcification. These three reef condition parameters are analyzed quantitatively against ten key biogeophysical parameters using new models to understand reef conditions today and predict reef conditions in the future.
CORAL science will focus on key reef areas in the Pacific Ocean: Hawaii, the Mariana Islands, Palau, and the Great Barrier Reef. Data acquisition is currently planned for 2016-2017, with science analysis in following years.