Marine Resource Aerial Imagery Database

The FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is exploring the use of satellite imagery and computer software as a time- and cost-saving alternative to manual seagrass mapping.

The Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring program was developed to enable resource managers to track changes in the distribution, abundance, and species composition of Florida seagrass meadows. A statewide network of scientists and agencies led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) pools seagrass data for use by Florida legislators, state agencies, and other decision makers.

Since the first annual statewide seagrass "report card" in 2009, the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) has improved the mapping and monitoring technology and developed the capability to distribute imagery on the Internet. A significant obstacle to the program has been the cost of conventional seagrass mapping, a time-consuming manual process of interpreting aerial photography. FWRI is investigating a promising alternative relying on satellite imagery and software-assisted mapping.

Satellite imagery has the advantage of covering large areas quickly, enhancing the ability to accurately monitor seagrass habitats statewide and identify areas of seagrass loss. Several commercial satellites now provide stock multispectral imagery at improved pixel resolution (3 feet versus 100 feet a quarter-century ago) and favorable cost, compared with conventional photography. During recent years' production of seagrass maps, FWRI tested the feasibility of the new mapping techniques in three areas for which satellite imagery was available: Florida Bay, Tampa Bay, and Big Bend. Seagrass scientists and managers, coastal resource management agencies, environmental consultants, and recreational users all stand to benefit from improved efficiencies in seagrass mapping.

FWRI now distributes new and historical aerial seagrass imagery from the Marine Resource Aerial Imagery Database at Currently available for download are modern digital datasets for Springs Coast, Big Bend, Biscayne Bay, and the western Everglades, as well as scanned and indexed aerial imagery of seafloors from the 1980s and 1990s. Additional datasets will be added as imagery becomes available. Upon request, a GIS librarian can still burn specific imagery to a DVD and mail it.

Screen capture of the MARID main page

A computer equipped with Google Earth version 5 or higher can download images from the Marine Resource Aerial Imagery Database at The DATA tab offers a choice of compressed TIFF format for GIS applications or JPEG2000 format for less rigorous needs.

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