Mapping Caribbean Benthic Habitats Using Planetscope Imagery
High-resolution benthic habitat data fill an important knowledge gap for many areas of the world and are essential for strategic marine conservation planning and implementing effective resource management. Many countries lack the resources and capacity to create these products, which has hindered the development of accurate ecological baselines for assessing protection needs for coastal and marine habitats and monitoring change to guide adaptive management actions. The PlanetScope (PS) Dove Classic SmallSat constellation delivers high-resolution imagery (4m) and near-daily global coverage that facilitates the compilation of a cloud-free and optimal water column image composite of the Caribbean’s nearshore environment. These data were used to develop a first-of-its-kind regional thirteen-class benthic habitat map to 30m water depth using an object-based image analysis approach. This information provides a baseline of ecological data for developing and executing more strategic conservation actions, including implementing more effective marine spatial plans, prioritizing and improving marine protected area design, monitoring condition and change for post-storm damage assessments, and providing more accurate habitat data for ecosystem service models.