The Coastal And Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS): Transforming Seafloor Geomorphic Data Into Useful Habitat Information

Kathryn Rose, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Stennis Space Center, United States; Northern Gulf Institute- Mississippi State University, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States and Kirsten Larsen, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States
The Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Classification Standard (CMECS) comprises a set of standardized vocabularies that describe characteristics of aquatic habitats from the head of tide in estuaries to the depths of the oceans and Great Lakes. The CMECS was endorsed and published by the US Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) in 2012 as the Federal Standard for mapping coastal and marine habitats. It has been implemented in a wide range of applications, including state and local agencies in estuarine and coastal mapping, researchers characterizing deep-sea coral communities, and by federal agencies to assess the sustainable use and stewardship of ocean and coastal resources.

Applying the CMECS terms to observational data ensures that they are consistently described, and can be used for identification and comparison of habitat types from across different geographic settings and time intervals. CMECS-classified data products can also be combined with other independently collected and classified datasets, enabling the re-use of existing datasets for novel purposes. The modular, hierarchical structure of the CMECS allows classification of biotic and abiotic ecological components separately or in combination to arrive at a multi-dimensional, synergistic depiction of habitat (e.g. biotopes).

The project discussed here demonstrates how to crosswalk an existing seafloor geomorphology map to the CMECS Geoform Component. The resulting CMECS Geoform map serves as a GIS framework for integrating additional, higher-resolution datasets, producing a more accurate and informative map of varying spatial resolution and descriptive detail. This CMECS Geoform Basemap is used in a GIS webmap application that can be used to continually aggregate additional geomorphic data, and 1) provide aquatic habitat information to resource managers and planners, 2) inform further data collection efforts, and 3) provide guidance on the application of the CMECS Geoform Component classification.