[ASC-media] ‘Un-mappable’ Great Barrier Reef finally mapped

Melissa Lyne mlyne_99 at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 18 13:08:56 PST 2013

Media release – Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Great Barrier Reef finally mapped
German and Australian scientists today
launched a set of groundbreaking, high resolution, shallow water topography
maps for the entire Great Barrier Reef. These world-first digital maps of the coral
reefs, using satellite derived depth (bathymetry) techniques, are a critical step
towards identifying, managing and essentially preserving and protecting what
lies within the waters of this global icon.
Project partner, Dr Robin Beaman of James
Cook University, says the product is different to anything else available, as
until now, nearly half of the shallow water reef areas on the Great Barrier
Reef were not mapped using modern digital surveys. While these coral reefs are
the most ecologically significant, they are also the most difficult to map due
to being either too remote or because of their shallow nature, which makes them
navigationally dangerous.
Instead of relying on traditional surveying
vessels or aircraft to map the many ‘un-mappable’ areas of the reef, Germany-based
aquatic remote-sensing company EOMAP used space-borne satellites to overcome
these hurdles. The result is the largest project of its kind ever conducted in
Australia, and possibly the entire world. The 3D water depth maps have a 30m horizontal
resolution over approximately 350,000 km2 of the Great Barrier Reef World
Heritage Area and Torres Strait, providing not only more detailed individual
reef data, but also a complete picture of Earth’s largest coral reef ecosystem.
“This information is regarded as
essential for any government or company involved with managing the reef
environment,” states Professor Stuart Phinn, University of Queensland, another
partner on the project.
The EOMAP product will aid the ‘big
picture’ assessments of the Great Barrier Reef including water quality
modeling, measuring responses to both man-made and natural impacts, such as
sediment transportation and tropical cyclones, and helping to predict the
likely impacts of climate change effects, such as sea level rise and increased
tropical cyclone frequency. It will also help target priority areas for more
detailed data collection, for example with the vast improvements this promises
to ocean current modeling, scientists can model crown of thorn starfish larval
trajectories to where they are next likely to inhabit the Great Barrier Reef.
“There is often a disconnect between
research and industry, where researchers generally look at changes on
individual reefs and habitats,” comments Dr Nathan Quadros from the Cooperative
Research Centre for Spatial Information, also a partner on the project. “But
industry want the overall picture of the reef – this product brings the two
All of the mapped areas, no matter how
small, are available for purchase by anyone via the EOMAP website. A coarser
product (500m spatial resolution) is also available, free of charge, together
with sample data of the high resolution products.
Looking ahead, EOMAP has already
demonstrated the viability of the next generation product: a 2m resolution
version using DigitalGlobe’s Worldview-2 satellite.  
“Based on our trials, this promises to
be an even more astounding product,” says Dr Magnus Wettle, Senior Scientist at
EOMAP. “To be honest, I’d like to see the Australian Government partner with us
on this, our next endeavor, so that it would belong to Australia as a national
resource,” he said.
“Having said that, our priority is to
make it happen, so we have to be prepared to be pragmatic.”
EOMAP last week received an award from
Copernicus (the European Commission remote sensing peak body) for its work on
making affordable aquatic remote sensing products for industry and the public
Product and images:www.eomap.de/great-barrier-reef
Copernicus: www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus
For more information, please contact -

EOMAP media team: media at eomap.com 
Australian media liaison:Melissa Lyne, ph: 0415 514 328 (within
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