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Orkney played a central role in CGI’s partnership with a leading charity, Project Seagrass, supported by Marine Scotland, to develop a unique open-source algorithm to monitor seagrass meadows.  In turn this is now supporting biodiversity.

CGI is at the forefront of earth observation solutions which use location-based technologies and data to provide insights to many complex problems including climate change. Using this earth observation technology CGI partnered with charity Project Seagrass to aid the conservation of seagrass, one of the UK’s most promising habitats for supporting biodiversity. Together CGI and Project Seagrass have analysed Orkney and its seagrass meadows to create a new unique, geospatial solution.

The geospatial solution CGI developed is a seagrass identification algorithm which can be used to estimate the location and size of seagrass meadows worldwide using earth observation data from satellites. This data source is now being used by Project Seagrass to aid conservation and inform local activities to preserve, restore and support coastal seagrass supporting marine biodiversity whilst also increasing Co2 consumption through improving its health and distribution.

The algorithm was developed using data gathered by Project Seagrass from Orkney. Since 2021, with the support of Marine Scotland, Project Seagrass has been surveying seagrass meadows in Orkney, which are of high conservation value, through both human and drone surveys.  This data enabled the charity to provide CGI with high-quality maps showing the location of specific seagrass meadows. CGI combined this data with its CGI GeoData360 Earth observation data processing platform, and data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Satellite Earth Observation Mission to estimate the location of new seagrass meadows not identified.

CGI GeoData360 and the ESA Earth observation imagery can be trained to create new algorithms which could be used to identify seagrass meadows anywhere in the world with access to relevant local data. Thanks to Orkney’s good water clarity and abundance of seagrass meadows, it is hoped that Orkney can continue to act as the foundation for the global cause to preserve seagrass. To begin this process, CGI has released the algorithm as open source to foster collaboration. CGI is now working to extend the research to identify new meadows around the UK, using further ground truth data both from Project Seagrass and others as it becomes available.