Project Leaders

Eric Lawrey

Eric Lawrey


Chris Roelfsema

Chris Roelfsema


Project Collaborators

Mapping the ‘missing’ reefs of the northern Australian seascape

Project 3.17



The challenge:


There are hundreds of reefs and shoals in northern Australia’s coastal waters that support a vast array of marine creatures. Many remain unmapped as they are remote and difficult to see in the turbid, sediment-rich waters typical of the region.

These ‘missing’ reefs can’t be considered for protection by planners when deciding how economic and other developments should proceed and be regulated.

This project addresses this problem by creating maps, and associated information, that show the location of the, as yet, unrecorded reefs, along with their habitat features.


Our approach:


The project will create new, more accurate maps, that show the reefs along with associated shallow waters, using improved satellite imaging selection techniques. These provide a clearer view of the marine areas than has been achievable to-date. Components of the process include:

  • a review of 30 years of satellite imagery for cloud-free images and clearer water occurrences;
  • consideration of recent field data to refine geomorphic and benthic habitat maps; and
  • improvement of the Allen Coral Atlas through new imagery and improved machine-learning.

The upgraded maps will provide higher levels of confidence to conservation and development planners, and thus ensure better outcomes for the protection of coral reefs.


Expected outcomes:


Innovative and improved mapping techniques, analysis, and products.

Reef protection enhanced through more accurate data being available to planners.