Want to see the Great Barrier Reef from the comfort of your computer screen? Google Street View in conjunction with the Catlin Seaview Survey has created Google Street View Oceans, 360 degree panorama imagery of the Great Barrier Reef. To achieve this feat, and so you can view the world’s underwater reef wonders from your computer screen, underwater scooters with high end cameras were driven by divers who snap high resolution images of the reefs and then stitch those images together to create a panorama of the reef and the species that inhabit the reef. The team then uses image recognition software to monitor the species captured in the imagery in hopes of keeping detailed information on the reef’s health, and at the same time gives landlubbers the capability to view the images and learn about the world’s reef ecosystems.
The team is currently surveying reefs in the Caribbean, which lead researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a reef scientist at the University of Queensland, Australia, says have declined more than 50 percent from the 1970s to less than 5 percent today. Next year, the team plans to map corals in the Coral Triangle of Southeast Asia, one of the most diverse regions in the world when it comes to coral and reef species.
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Coral reefs are important barometers that help to assess the health of the world’s oceans. The health of these reefs have suffered major declines over the last several decades due to such factors as climate change, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, weather events and a whole host of other factors, many of which are manmade. Millions of people depend on the world’s reefs for their livelihood and when the reefs decline, the impact will be immeasurable. It is collaborations like these that can help to strengthen the world’s coral reefs.