Mapping coral reefs from space for effective management and protection

Mrs Emily Twiggs1,2, Dr. Magnus Wettle1

1EOMAP Australia Pty Ltd, Maroochydore, Australia, 2Curtin University of Technology, Bentley, Australia


Understanding the global coral reef crisis requires baseline data to accurately describe reef locations and their status. Fit-for-purpose monitoring is needed to effectively protect and manage these aquatic environments, this in turn, requires methods that map and detect change at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Remote sensing can address some of the challenges faced by environmental managers, researchers, and ultimately, policymakers. In principle, satellite-based mapping and monitoring offers rapid, low-cost, and ongoing environmental information from coral reefs which are otherwise difficult to access due to their remoteness, navigational risk and/or vast extent.

EOMAP has worked on several collaborative projects since 2006, aimed at providing long-term coral reef monitoring using satellite-derived seafloor mapping, most recently for all 3000 reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2019, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), together with project leader The University of Queensland (UQ), launched a project to map the entire GBR at a spatial scale essential for monitoring and managing change. EOMAP provided Satellite-Derived Bathymetry (SDB) and seafloor reflectance at an unprecedented 10 m resolution, using a fully physics-based processing workflow system. SDB and reflectance are the cornerstone layers from which slope, wave energy, geomorphology and benthic habitats will be derived, in combination with modelling techniques (UQ) and field data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Regular satellite-derived mapping combined with innovative approaches, are essential to support the long-term decision-making and conservation of coral reefs at regional and global scales.


Emily Twiggs is a Senior Project Scientist for EOMAP Australia based in Perth, Western Australia. Her experience over the last 15 years, includes mapping bathymetry, geomorphology, sedimentology and marine habitats in coastal, coral reef and shelf environments, and the sustainable management of these systems.