MUNICH, Germany, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Scientists say satellite observations have allowed them to create a set of high-resolution 3D maps of the entire Great Barrier Reef off Australia.
The maps represent a critical step towards identifying, managing and protecting what lies beneath the waters of Australia's east coast, they said.
The world's largest coral reef system at more than 130,000 square miles, the Great Barrier Reef faces numerous threats including climate change, pollution, fishing and outbreaks of the coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish.
The German aquatic remote sensing company EOMAP, with support from the European Space Agency, has combined satellite optical imagery with tide information and existing ocean floor topography data to create maps it says can aid "big picture" assessments of the Great Barrier Reef.
Those assessments will include water quality, measuring responses to man-made and natural effects, and helping predict the likely impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels and increasingly frequent tropical cyclones, an ESA release said Friday.