A Revolutionary New Marine Habitat Classification System

NOAA announced a new standard language for characterizing habitats that has the potential to revolutionize how scientists study and manage our coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes.  NOAA teamed with federal and non-federal partners to develop the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard, a type of dictionary of marine habitat terminology, for use in planning, monitoring, and managing our natural resources.

Their announcement stated, "Whether we're working to protect coral reefs, researching how marine life uses its environment, or restoring coastal areas, we need to know that we, and our fellow habitat scientists, are speaking the same language. With adoption of the new classification standard, we can be assured that local, state, federal, and international entities can make apples-to-apples comparisons among data collected from different sources, locations, and tools."

The Federal Geographic Data Committee recently endorsed this standard—a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” as data standards goes. It is the first such national standard endorsed for coastal and marine ecosystems. As a “dynamic standard,” this classification system will continue to be updated and refined over time and as new information is collected.

The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard is the result of collaboration between NOAA, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, University of Rhode Island, and NatureServe.