Assessing the value of Earth Observation for managing coral reefs: An example from the Great Barrier Reef

J.A. Bouma, O.J. Kuik, A.G. Dekker

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS, 2003) argues that further investments in Earth Observation information are required to improve coral reef protection worldwide. The IGOS Strategy does not specify what levels of investments are needed nor does it quantify the benefits associated with better-protected reefs. Evaluating costs and benefits is important for determining optimal investment levels and for convincing policy-makers that investments are required indeed. Few studies have quantitatively assessed the economic benefits of Earth Observation information or evaluated the economic value of information for environmental management. This paper uses an expert elicitation approach based on Bayesian Decision Theory to estimate the possible contribution of global Earth Observation to the management of the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef including its lagoon is a World Heritage Area affected by anthropogenic changes in land-use as well as climate change resulting in increased flows of sediments, nutrients and carbon to the GBR lagoon. Since European settlement, nutrient and sediment loads having increased 5-10 times and the change in water quality is causing damages to the reef. Earth Observation information from ocean and coastal color satellite sensors can provide spatially and temporally dense information on sediment flows. We hypothesize that Earth Observation improves decision-making by enabling better-targeted run-off reduction measures and we assess the benefits (cost savings) of this improved targeting by optimizing run-off reductions under different states of the world. The analysis suggests that the benefits of Earth Observation can indeed be substantial, depending on the perceived accuracy of the information and on the prior beliefs of decision-makers. The results indicate that increasing informational accuracy is the most effective way for developers of Earth Observation information to increase the added value of Earth Observation for managing coral reefs. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4497-4503
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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