Mapping of coral reefs with multispectral satellites: a review of recent papers

Teo Nguyen*, Benoît Liquet, Kerrie Mengersen, Damien Sous

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    101 Downloads (Pure)


    Coral reefs are an essential source of marine biodiversity, but they are declining at an alarming rate under the combined effects of global change and human pressure. A precise mapping of coral reef habitat with high spatial and time resolutions has become a necessary step for monitoring their health and evolution. This mapping can be achieved remotely thanks to satellite imagery coupled with machine-learning algorithms. In this paper, we review the different satellites used in recent literature, as well as the most common and efficient machine-learning methods. To account for the recent explosion of published research on coral reel mapping, we especially focus on the papers published between 2018 and 2020. Our review study indicates that object-based methods provide more accurate results than pixel-based ones, and that the most accurate methods are Support Vector Machine and Random Forest. We emphasize that the satellites with the highest spatial resolution provide the best images for benthic habitat mapping. We also highlight that preprocessing steps (water column correction, sunglint removal, etc.) and additional inputs (bathymetry data, aerial photographs, etc.) can significantly improve the mapping accuracy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number4470
    Pages (from-to)1-25
    Number of pages25
    JournalRemote Sensing
    Issue number21
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • coral mapping
    • coral reefs
    • machine learning
    • remote sensing
    • satellite imagery


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