Coral reefs are the rain forests of the ocean. They are beacons of biodiversity that house a quarter of all marine species and provide food and livelihoods to more than half a billion people worldwide.
But these aquatic havens now face existential threats: overfishing, coastal development, and heat stress brought on by climate change. If humankind’s actions continue to warm Earth more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, coral reefs as we know them could almost completely vanish. As reefs face this impending crisis, the need to monitor them has intensified. But coral researchers face a mammoth problem: They don’t know precisely where all of Earth’s reefs even are, and only a small fraction of those are actively monitored. How can conservationists protect what they can’t locate?
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