Mapping Technologies in Coral-Reef Environments

Training Course

Mapping Technologies in Coral-Reef Environments


Coral reefs are unique ecosystems in view of their dependence on a strong interaction between geomorphic and ecological processes. Investigating the formation and morphological change of coral-reefs and reef-associated landforms contributes to a deeper understanding of a number of geomorphological, environmental and ecological issues, such as sediment and nutrient transport processes, larval dispersion mechanisms, estimation of their carrying capacity as habitat, etc. It is also paramount to improving coral reef conservation in the face of changing environmental conditions, resulting from an increased stress by anthropogenic and climate changes.

Until less than a decade ago, geomorphological mapping in coral reef environments was carried out using satellite data ground-truthed by field studies, and it is mainly focused on the investigation of the recent evolution of coral-reef associated landforms. Because of this, geomorphological mapping lacked a 3-dimensional representation of coral reef environments at high spatial resolution. The collection of fine-scale elevation data was limited by the difficulty in obtaining reliable submarine elevation data. The use of a research vessel (equipped with traditional acoustic mapping devices) is hampered by the very shallow and topographically complex environments. Today, detailed mapping of coral reef structures is possible, thanks to recent improvements in using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the Structure form Motion (SfM) digital photogrammetry image processing technique, among others.

This course will entail an overview of the most advanced techniques used to collect elevation data in coral reef environments, spanning from traditional acoustic mapping (multibeam echo-sounder bathymetry and backscatter, shallow seismic reflection profiling) and seafloor imaging/sampling techniques (remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and grab sampling) to UAV and topographic surveys.

We will present techniques used to integrate multi-scale elevation data sets into a continuous digital terrain model (DTM) to understand the processes responsible for the formation of coral-reef environments.

For registration and the full program, download the program below.