This map is part of the Allen Coral Atlas. It shows the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. (Allen Coral Atlas via AP)

This map is part of the Allen Coral Atlas. It shows the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. (Allen Coral Atlas via AP)

Alexandra Ordonez Alvarez from the University of Queensland collects data on the Great Barrier Reef. (Chris Roelfsema/Allen Coral Atlas via AP)

Alexandra Ordonez Alvarez from the University of Queensland collects data on the Great Barrier Reef. (Chris Roelfsema/Allen Coral Atlas via AP)

A shark swims on a reef in Ailinginae Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Allen Coral Atlas, Greg Asner via AP)

A shark swims on a reef in Ailinginae Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Allen Coral Atlas, Greg Asner via AP)

Tourists snorkel around Upolu Cay on the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian north east coast. (AP/Brian Cassey)

Tourists snorkel around Upolu Cay on the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian north east coast. (AP/Brian Cassey)

This Atlas image shows the bleaching of coral reefs at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii. (Courtesy of Allen Coral Atlas)

This Atlas image shows the bleaching of coral reefs at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii. (Courtesy of Allen Coral Atlas)

X Marks the Spot for Coral

Posted: November 1, 2021

How do you make a map of all the world’s underwater coral reefs? With a few million satellite images! Researchers looked at more than two million such images of the Earth. They used those photos to create a helpful tool. It’s a complete coral reef map. 

The Allen Coral Atlas is named after late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The online map is the first global, high-resolution collection of its kind. It is a great reference for people working to save fragile reefs. But the map isn’t just for conservationists. It’s for everyone who’s curious about coral! The Allen Coral Atlas is free to view on the internet.

A coral reef is an area in the ocean made up of thousands of tiny animals called coral polyps. But a reef is also home to hundreds of thousands of other animals. A healthy coral reef literally teems with life.

The team that created the Allen Coral Atlas wants the information in it to help preserve reefs around the world—for the health of the whole world. “Our biggest contribution in this achievement is that we have a uniform mapping of the entire coral reef biome,” says Greg Asner. He’s the managing director of the atlas.

Hundreds of people worked to gather the images that were used to create the reef map. Everyone shared information about reefs so that satellites could be programed to focus on the right areas. Some of those images showed coral reefs that had never been mapped before. In fact, the Allen Coral Atlas maps about three-quarters of the world’s reefs for the first time ever.

The project began in 2017. That’s when a researcher in Hawaii helped come up with the idea. Ruth Gates teamed up with Mr. Allen and Mr. Asner. Their goal was to use technology to locate and document all the reefs in the world. Both Mr. Allen and Ms. Gates passed away about a year after the project began. But people kept the project going.

“Ruth would be so pleased, wouldn’t she?” says Mr. Asner. “She would just be tickled that this is really happening.”

The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. — Psalm 95:5

Why? The Allen Coral Atlas shows us how many beautiful and necessary coral reefs God scattered across the vast oceans of the globe.