There is a critical need for accurate data on coral reef habitat status and biodiversity in southwest Madagascar on which to base systematic MPA planning methods. However, the acquisition of reliable data documenting the location, distribution and status of marine habitats using conventional ecological monitoring techniques is logistically difficult, limited in geographical scope, and can become prohibitively expensive when working on a broad scale.
Working with the United States National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) and local communities in the Velondriake protected area network, a detailed map of local marine and coastal ecosystems has been created, based on 2.4 metre resolution QuickBird imagery. This comprises a high-resolution spectral bathymetry and coastal habitat map. The accuracy of the outputs is estimated to be higher than 70%, at a cost of approximately $2/hectare. The data are combined in a geographical information system (GIS) allowing for further analysis, vulnerability mapping and a range of cartographic outputs which provide the basis for encouraging and fostering community dialogue about local resource use.
This novel approach has enabled the production of the highest resolution habitat and bathymetric maps available for the region. These outputs have proven to be instrumental in developing a coherent protected area zoning plan and set of measureable management objectives for Velondriake, and this technique serves as a cost effective solution for surveying large swathes of shallow marine and coastal habitat.
This technique is essential for the adoption of a holistic, ecosystem-scale approach to conservation planning in the region and a fundamental prerequisite to the development of a resilient network of marine and coastal protected areas across Madagascar’s southwestern reef system.