Communicating the Pixel: A Strategy for Guiding the Use of Remotely-Sensed Habitat Data in Coral Reef Management
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Over the last decade, coral reef remote sensing research has focused on habitat map development. Advances in field methods, spatial and spectral resolution of remote sensing data, and algorithm development have led to more detailed map categories and to heightened map accuracy. Studies have provided guidance for practitioners in areas such as imagery selection, algorithm application, and class selection methods, but the product has remained relatively unchanged – a habitat map showing the spatial distribution of a range of substrate classes, classified primarily on the basis of their spectral signature. However, the application of such a product in a management context has not been elaborated by the remote sensing community. The research described in this thesis addresses the challenge that the application of remotely-sensed coral reef information in a coral reef management environment elicits. In such an environment, the coral reef manager asks: "What can the map do to help me?", while the remote sensing scientist asks: "What type of information do you need?". The research described here aims to reconcile these two points of view, by answering the research question of this thesis: How can coral reef remotely-sensed information address stakeholder-specific coral reef management objectives? This question was answered through the development of a four-stage strategy. The strategy includes: 1) developing a traditional habitat map, 2) investigating stakeholder receptivity to the habitat map, 3) linking stakeholder interests with habitat data, and 4) illustrating the linked habitat data in what we term a management map. The strategy was applied on Bunaken Island, Indonesia, and involved the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data sets. The research was relevant to the communities on Bunaken Island, as they are directly responsible for the management of the coral reef resources surrounding Bunaken Island, and they are regularly planning and implementing coral reef management projects. The effectiveness of the four-stage strategy was evaluated in a framework that compares potential and actual uses of habitat maps and management maps in coral reef management projects. It was shown that management maps are superior to habitat maps for a wide range of management purposes. This research has provided two main contributions to the field of coral reef remote sensing and management. The first is the four-stage strategy that results in the development of management maps, and the second is the framework for evaluating the effectiveness of the management maps. This research seeks to traverse the gap between producers and users of coral reef remotely-sensed information. The recommendations made from this research addresses coral reef management procedures, action research, and cross-cultural communication. Each recommendation is founded on collaboration between scientist and manager. Such collaboration is crucial for successful application of remotely-sensed information to management.