Climate change is imminent and so is the damage to the ecosystem that comes with it. With global warming being more prominent than ever, the temperatures on land, as well as the water bodies, are at their highest. This drastic rise in temperature makes unsuitable living conditions for a variety of organisms, especially corals. 

Coral reefs are an important aspect of marine ecosystems because they provide shelter for a vast amount of aquatic life and more importantly, protect shorelines from the damaging waves and storms. With the increasing temperature of the oceans, warm water causes bleaching of these corals [an act of expelling algae from their living tissues] and eventually they die. This has caused a large number of coral reefs to die out in recent years. 

This will also have a severe impact on people’s livelihoods as people living around water bodies depend on them to procure food. This could cause a huge dent in the finances of that particular country since they will lose out on tourism. 

However, some AI scientists might have found a solution to the problem by using AI to catalog and identify geographical regions where corals are still able to survive and flourish. This team of marine scientists, satellite mappers and naturalists came together to form the Allen Coral Atlas. Inspired by the late Paul Allen and his passion for conserving marine life and coral reefs was funded by Paul G. Allen Philanthropies. 

Their approach consists of deploying underwater drones/scooters with cameras attached in a 360-degree radius and advanced AI image recognition for producing high-resolution images and creating an accurate mosaic view of these corals for finding these coral safe havens. 

Images of coral reefs from Sulawesi Islands in Indonesia spanning a distance of 1487 square miles was fed to this deep learning AI algorithm, which had already received training data from over 500 images to identify types of coral, and other reef invertebrates, to assess that region’s ecological health. 

Emma Kennedy, PHD a benthic marine ecologist at the University of Queensland, said

“The use of A.I. to rapidly analyze photographs of coral has vastly improved the efficiency of what we do. What would take a coral reef scientist 10 to 15 minutes now takes the machine a few seconds.”

Although only 2% of the world’s coral population has been tracked according to a presentation they made in Seattle, they are determined to finish mapping the entire coral population by the end of 2020. This global coral map is updated everyday and an alert is issued when the reef health declines through the incorporation of AI. This allows authorities and scientists to react quickly when the coral health declines or any emergency that might threaten the coral ecology. 

However, clear methods and guidelines haven’t really been provided by them to show proper execution of actually saving the coral reefs once its ecology is actually in danger. Mapping them is definitely an important step towards saving the corals, but just getting alerts about the potential dangers and actually doing something about it are completely different things.

The environment is constantly declining and the carbon dioxide emission that is perpetrating it should be our main concern.

This image shows the trend in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the previous two millennia in relation to the timing of mass coral bleaching events.

Hence our concentration should be focused on how to directly cut down on carbon dioxide emission and improve the aquatic ecosystem, by preventing waste dumping in oceans to reduce eutrophication and using or trying to find alternative energy resources.

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