New cloud platform enhances coral reef monitoring in the Pacific

28 April 2022 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read

Accenture has teamed up with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences on the international roll-out of a new cloud-based platform to support coral reef monitoring and conservation activities.

As authorities grapple with the Great Barrier Reef’s fourth mass coral bleaching event since 2016, the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) has announced the international roll-out of a cloud-based platform to enhance reef monitoring across the Pacific.

Developed in collaboration with professional services firm Accenture, the open-access ReefCloud platform enables stakeholders to work together in close to real-time.

New cloud platform enhances coral reef monitoring in the Pacific

ReefCloud allows scientists and researchers to submit images of the reef, whereupon the platform’s advanced artificial intelligence automatically tags and analyses the images with what its developers say replicates expert observations with 80-90 percent accuracy, such that can it produce accurate estimations of coral reef composition 700 times faster than manual assessment. The information is then presented through an interactive global dashboard.

The developers of ReefCloud, which further include the Queensland University of Technology, the Palau International Coral Reef Center, and the Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji among other conservation practitioners and organisations, note that while around 70 percent of the world’s coral reefs are currently monitored, it could previously take years to collate, reconcile and assess the disparate forms of data and collection methodologies.

Now regularly being used in the Maldives and the Pacific island nations of Palau, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomons in addition to Australia, ReefCloud collaborators and users around the world will have have access to up-to-date reef health and monitoring information, with the comprehensive dashboard also providing insights on the impact of environmental disturbances on coral reefs such as exposure to thermal stress and tropical cyclones.

“We are incredibly proud to work with AIMS and tap into a diversity of experience in our regional community on this important project,” said Mark Green, A/NZ head of Accenture Interactive, which designed the UX. “Technology and data combined with intelligence and purposeful design helped us bring real value to the table, allowing reef managers to be equipped to address one of the most significant climate change challenges of our time.”

Accenture has been working on the project with AIMS since at least the beginning of last year – following a period of experimentation at Accenture’s leading global research & development centre The Dock – and has been involved in a similar reef-health project in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, an earlier assessment by Deloitte pegged the economic worth of the Great Barrier Reef to be in the realm of $56 billion, supporting more than 64,000 jobs.

Manuel Gonzalez Rivero, AIMS Research Team Lead, described the ReefCloud platform as a democratisation of knowledge: “ReefCloud will support a transformation in coral reef monitoring approaches which leads to more timely and informed decision-making on management actions to improve the long-term resilience of our coral reefs – working together as a monitoring community and sharing our knowledge and data is much more efficient and effective.”