New approaches to mapping the spatial extent of coastal habitats, resources and their species are urgently needed to identify, monitor and mitigate potentially damaging anthropogenic activities. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing satellite technologies deliver more accurate and detailed spatial information to the coastal zone user than conventional methods (boat and shore-based surveys), because they limit their dependence on extrapolating site-specific data. However, these technologies should be viewed as an integral part of conventional field-based methods rather than its alternative. GIS and satellite imagery offer a cost-effective approach to developing tools for collaborative coastal management by providing managers with the flexibility to input additional information whether model-based, textual, graphical or tabular. Maps are visually intuitive and therefore effective aids in relating complex issues to decisionmakers and the public, regardless of their scientific understanding and background.
Tobago’s clear water provides ideal conditions for using remote sensing satellite technology such as Landsat and Ikonos sensors, to derive resource maps of the area. These satellite sensors will provide a synoptic view of the reef and high resolution images of its seabed and intertidal features e.g. corals, sandy lagoons, algae and seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. Satellites are a cost-effective approach to resource mapping by augmenting field surveys that would otherwise be conducted using conventional methods such as boat and shore-based surveys. These types of surveys are also limited because they collect point data at site-specific locations and, therefore, lack the necessary information for extrapolating between sample stations.