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Looking for common language to integrate marine habitat data

The final report and maps are available for a North Atlantic LCC funded project that tested how a national framework for classifying estuarine and marine environments holds up at multiple scales, addressing the need for consistent data to inform marine conservation in the Northeast.
Looking for common language to integrate marine habitat data

NOAA Office of Coastal Management

Characteristics of the water column, coastal topography, the composition of the sea floor, and communities of aquatic organisms  - all essential information for understanding and conserving marine systems. But when integrating these data across different scales, is anything lost in translation?

This question was at the core of a partnership project between The Nature Conservancy, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Rhode Island, funded by the North Atlantic LCC. In an effort to support ocean planning and management efforts, the partners translated 40 existing classification schemes into the national Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standards (CMECs), to arrive at a common language for describing marine habitat data.

The partners tested the ability of the CMECs framework to effectively translate and map existing data in the Northeast Atlantic Region, using pilot projects at the local, intermediate, and regional scales:

  • For the regional-level pilot, they applied the framework to the Nature Conservancy’s Benthic Habitat Model from the 2010 Northwest Atlantic Marine Assessment (1:5,000,000 scale).
  • For the intermediate-scale pilot, they applied the framework to the marine spatial planning efforts being utilized in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and adjacent federal waters (1:250,000 scale).
  • For the small-scale pilot, they applied the framework to estuary specific, high-resolution benthic information for Boston Harbor (1:5,000 scale).


With the mapping stage of the project complete, the partners have finalized a report and associated spatial data, which are available on Conservation Gateway. Future stages of the project could include full mapping of the North Atlantic with the Mid Atlantic Regional Ocean Council and Northeast Regional Ocean Council.

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