Regional high-resolution benthic habitat data from planet dove imagery for conservation decision-making and marine planning

Steven R. Schill, Valerie Pietsch McNulty, F. Joseph Pollock, Fritjof Lüthje, Jiwei Li, David E. Knapp, Joe D. Kington, Trevor McDonald, George T. Raber, Ximena Escovar-Fadul, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


High-resolution benthic habitat data fill an important knowledge gap for many areas of the world and are essential for strategic marine conservation planning and implementing effective resource management. Many countries lack the resources and capacity to create these products, which has hindered the development of accurate ecological baselines for assessing protection needs for coastal and marine habitats and monitoring change to guide adaptive management actions. The PlanetScope (PS) Dove Classic SmallSat constellation delivers high-resolution imagery (4 m) and near-daily global coverage that facilitates the compilation of a cloud-free and optimal water column image composite of the Caribbean’s nearshore environment. These data were used to develop a first-of-its-kind regional thirteen-class benthic habitat map to 30 m water depth using an object-based image analysis (OBIA) approach. A total of 203,676 km2 of shallow benthic habitat across the Insular Caribbean was mapped, representing 5% coral reef, 43% seagrass, 15% hardbottom, and 37% other habitats. Results from a combined major class accuracy assessment yielded an overall accuracy of 80% with a standard error of less than 1% yielding a confidence interval of 78%–82%. Of the total area mapped, 15% of these habitats (31,311.7 km2) are within a marine protected or managed area. This information provides a baseline of ecological data for developing and executing more strategic conservation actions, including implementing more effective marine spatial plans, prioritizing and improving marine protected area design, monitoring condition and change for post-storm damage assessments, and providing more accurate habitat data for ecosystem service models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4215
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Benthic habitat
  • Coral reef
  • Ecosystem services
  • Marine spatial planning
  • SIDS
  • Seagrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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