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Coral reefs are being changed, degraded in major ways in many areas throughout the world at present. Some have concluded the extensive reefs of healthy corals we saw commonly throughout the 1970's and before are being lost and are likely not to return in the foreseeable future. Climate change seems to be a major factor in this among other causes. The common lack of awareness today of the former incredible appearance of reefs is startling.
Here is the concept, to create a publicly accessible Internet archive of coral reef images. Images of formerly healthy reefs are fairly abundant in private collections at present. Thing is celluloid and even prints are vulnerable to effects of time. Also, the photographer may appreciate their significance but it is less likely that family members that follow may have the same awareness. It would be necessary to scan in the images (still and movie) of course. Might even video interviews with the photographers about recollections of the reefs and their images for inclusion in the archive. Coral reef researchers and institutions also may possess large quantities of images and documentation to go with which could be a valuable addition.
The primary and most achievable goal would simply be to preserve for public viewing, images of healthy reefs. They would be indexed in a GIS database along with what locational and time specifics could be collected along with credit for the photographer. You could go a lot further with collecting related documentation and archiving and perserving donated original images. Have spoken briefly with some in regard to this concept at NOAA, Smithsonian, RSMAS, etc. receiving supportive comments. Could make it large and housed at some large recognized institution, which it deserves or start small and just get it done. Need to contact some other existing coral reef databases in this regard tomorrow. Usually prefer the latter approach in most things. This time though, it deserves some in depth coverage I think. We're talking about unprecedented loss of unique resources over vast areas.