Describing coral reef bleaching using high resolution satellite imagery - an experimental methodology

Daniel Ziskin, Christoph Aubrecht, Christoph Elvidge, Benjamin Tuttle, Mark Eakin, Alan E. Strong, Liane S. Guild

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelBegutachtung


This paper proposes an experimental methodology toward describing and quantifying coral reef bleaching using very high spatial resolution optical satellite imagery. Sea surface temperature-based bleaching alerts issued by NOAA´s Coral Reef Watch triggered image acquisition and served as an indication for high bleaching probability. Images of suspected coral reef bleaching events and reference images of the same reefs during previous unbleached conditions were coregistered and radiometrically normalized for change detection. An experimental methodology was developed to describe the severity and extent of the bleaching. The methodology hinges on the creation of the Coral Bleaching Index (CBI), constructed from change detected in the green, blue, and red wavelength bands. Results are provided in the form of colorized difference images showing areas of observed bleaching in gold, as well as CBI images, visualizing varying bleaching intensities. Comparison of the CBI with available field validation data yielded a correlation, however additional reference data would be needed for more detailed quality assessment. This technique is seen as a step toward the routine detection and long-term monitoring of coral reef bleaching from space and serves as a proposed tool for detecting bleaching in remote areas where observers cannot be deployed.
FachzeitschriftJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2011

Research Field

  • Ehemaliges Research Field - Energy
  • Ehemaliges Research Field - Innovation Systems and Policy


  • coral reef bleaching; high resolution imagery; IKONOS; QuickBird


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