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Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standards (CMECS) pilot studies

The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) provides a comprehensive national framework for organizing information about coasts, oceans, and their living systems. But when integrating these data across different scales, is anything lost in translation? This report uses three pilot projects to assess how well the framework functions for classifying estuarine and marine environments at different scales.

Go to the Product(s)

Final report on The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Gateway page

CMECS crosswalk data on our Conservation Planning Atlas

Additional Resources

Cover letter for the final report

Crosswalk table for the final report

Permanent home of the full Application of CMECS in the Northeast project, on The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Gateway

The Nature Conservancy's Northwest Atlantic Marine Ecoregional Assessment (NAM ERA)

NOAA's Office for Coastal Management National Estuarine Research Reserve System

NOAA's Office for Coastal Management Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standards (CMECS) webpage

Technical description

Classifying estuarine and marine habitats was identified as a priority need for a variety of purposes in the Northeast. The associated project utilized the national Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) version 4.0 to classify estuarine and marine environments in the Northwest Atlantic region (Maine to Virginia). Since CMECS was released just prior to the beginning of this project, and had not been applied to this region previously, the classification effort was informed by the habitat mapping approach that The Nature Conservancy (TNC) developed for the Northwest Atlantic. Several commonalities exist between the two habitat classification schemes: each has a multi-scale hierarchical framework, relies on structural environmental features, and seeks to convey physical-biological linkages. Ensuring CMECS and the TNC classifications are compatible will avoid redundancy and bring appropriate specificity to the application of CMECS to the region.

The three pilot projects were done at different scales relevant to planning and conservation efforts. At the regional scale (1:5,000,000), the classification was applied to the Nature Conservancy’s Benthic Habitat Model from the 2010 Northwest Atlantic Marine Assessment. At an intermediate-scale (1:250,000), the classification was applied to datasets assembled for marine spatial planning efforts in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and adjacent federal waters. At a finer scale (1:5,000), the classification was applied to estuary-specific, high-resolution benthic information for Boston Harbor.

Project Contact(s):

, Director of Conservation Science at The Nature Conservancy

LCC Staff Contact(s):

, Science Coordinator

Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standards (CMECS) pilot studies
Resource Type: Ecosystems
Conservation Targets: Coastal and Marine
Conservation Framework: Biological Planning, Assumption-based Research
Conservation Action: Site/area management, Habitat and natural process restoration