Can AI be our superhero, saving coral from climate change?

Coral reefs, known as the rainforests of the sea, are being severely affected by climate change leading to coral bleaching and eventually death. However, scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to try and save them.

  • The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) in Florida has developed a tool called CeruleanAI which uses AI to analyze 3D maps of coral reefs. This provides researchers with a new perspective for monitoring coral restoration efforts.
  • The tool identifies the species and location of corals in the reef, and measures their growth since the last visit. This aids in identifying how to better aid the corals’ survival.
  • CRF plans to launch CeruleanAI to other conservation groups around the world on a sliding scale or for free, depending on their need.
  • The use of AI like this does have an environmental footprint due to the large amount of energy required to train AI models. Careful consideration needs to be given to the potential environmental risks.

Conservationists at CRF breed new individual corals on land and then “plant” them in the sea. These reefs then provide support for life for thousands of other species. The traditional methods of monitoring these coral plantations, by diving and taking notes underwater, is time-consuming and risks missing the bigger picture of the overall coral reef health.

The use of AI in this context allows scientists to gather more detailed data from the reefs and makes the data more accessible. This will help CRF to rapidly implement changes based on the results. By using AI to analyze the health of the coral reefs, researchers are given more time to rescue the corals. However, the benefits of using AI must be weighed against the environmental impact of its energy use.

Due to climate change and rising ocean temperatures, there has been a 90 percent drop in the region’s healthy coral cover since the 1970s. Despite these challenges, conservationists are using technology like CeruleanAI to save these important ecosystems and the vast biodiversity they support. While AI is helping to mitigate the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans, there is still much work to be done.