Scientific Collaboration on the Global Reef Expedition

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To better understand the plight of coral reefs, The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) launched the Global Reef Expedition (GRE), a 10-year research mission that circumnavigated the globe to address the coral reef crisis. And while the GRE trek covered over 53,000 km, perhaps the most impressive number is the hundreds of scientists, community leaders, government officials, educators, documentary filmmakers, and photographers who surveyed, mapped, and documented over 1,000 reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean as well as the Red Sea.

The GRE also embodied the philosophy of Science Without Borders. In each country we were invited to work in, we brought an international team of scientists together with local leaders, conservationists, government officials, and subject matter experts to assess the state of the reefs. These local representatives provided invaluable knowledge and helped us share our findings with local communities. This philosophy allowed us to leverage the resources, commitment, and ideas necessary to make substantial progress to protect and preserve coral reefs.

Findings from the Global Reef Expedition

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Coral reefs offer a variety of ecosystem services, including sustenance, economic opportunities, and protection from natural disturbances, as well as playing an essential cultural role for thousands of communities. However, globally, the extent of the world’s reefs is being degraded at an astounding rate. To better understand the coral reef crisis, we embarked on the Global Reef Expedition (GRE), the world’s largest coral reef survey and high-resolution habitat mapping initiative, to assess the status of Earth’s reefs at a critical point in time. The GRE brought together an international team of over 200 scientists, educators, photographers, and filmmakers who circumnavigated the globe surveying some of the most remote coral reefs in the world.

This month, we published a report summarizing all of our findings from the Global Reef Expedition.

Announcing the Completion of the Global Reef Expedition

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Coral reefs around the world are rapidly declining due to various natural and anthropogenic factors, including climate change, overfishing, pollution, and coastal development. Scientists estimate that we have already lost more than half of the world’s coral reefs, and we could lose the rest by the end of the century.

To combat this coral reef crisis, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation embarked on the Global Reef Expedition—a 10-year research mission that assessed the status and major threats to coral reefs around the world. Using a three-pronged approach of science, education, and outreach, the Global Reef Expedition circumnavigated the globe, surveying and mapping over 1,000 reefs in 16 countries across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as the Red Sea.

Now, after traveling over 50,000 kilometers, conducting more than 12,000 scientific dives, and educating over 6,000 local students and community leaders, the Global Reef Expedition is finally complete. His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Sultan Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia formally announced the conclusion of the Global Reef Expedition today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Global Reef Expedition: A mission to assess the health of coral reefs around the world

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In 2011, scientists from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation set out on a mission to explore the remote coral reefs of the world. An international team of scientists, photographers, videographers and conservationists, as well as local leaders, were assembled to map, characterize, and evaluate coral reefs throughout the western Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They wanted to take a snapshot of the reefs in time, to survey and map the reefs and assess their health before it was too late. 


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During this mission in the Austral and Cook Islands, we have covered more miles than any other Global Reef Expedition mission. During this month we will have surveyed 8 different islands in two countries and the Golden Shadow will cover …

Hao Atoll at Eye Level

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Research dives can be distilled down to lists of what is seen and what is not seen. Surveying the reef means figuring out what is there and what is missing. For the last few days, the science team has been …

Gambier, 800 feet above sea level

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After a 3.5 hour flight on the Golden Eye, we reached Hao to begin our third research mission in French Polynesia at Gambier. Hao is a large (56 km X 15 km), low-lying coral atoll at the southeastern end of …