Almost three-quarters of the world's coral reefs are thought to be deteriorating as a consequence of environmental stress. Until now, it has been possible to evaluate reef health only by field survey, which is labour-intensive and time-consuming. Here we map live coral cover from the air by remote imaging, a technique that will enable the state of shallow reefs to be monitored swiftly and over large areas.
During the 1998 El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, mass coral bleaching in French Polynesia was patchy at a scale of 100s of km. Bleaching was extensive in parts of the Tuamotu archipelago (creating up to 99% coral mortality) but extremely mild in the Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea), ca 350 km to the south-west, despite sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies being of similar magnitude to previous years in which mass bleaching occurred. We examine whether environmental variables account for this unexpected paucity of bleaching using a 50 yr record of SST, a 17 yr record of daily wind and...