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Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard

NOAA Coastal Services Center

New Classification Standard for Marine Planning, Habitat Monitoring, and Management

July 6, 2012
coral reef and fish

The classification standard meets a long-standing need to better characterize and integrate data from multiple sources and across regional geographies.

After nearly a decade of dedicated effort, NOAA and partners have developed a comprehensive national framework for organizing information about coasts, oceans, and their living systems.

The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) provides a unifying framework for planning, habitat monitoring, and management of our coasts and Great Lakes. This means that local, state, federal, and even international entities can make apples-to-apples comparisons among data collected from different sources and in different locations. CMECS will help scientists speak the same language whether they are trying to manage marine protected areas, protect coral reefs, or conduct natural resource assessments.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) recently endorsed CMECS as the first national standard for coastal and marine ecosystems. The standard underwent an extensive public and peer review as part of the FGDC endorsement process.


CMECS is the result of a strong collaboration between NOAA, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, University of Rhode Island, and NatureServe. The team relied on the input of many topical experts from academia and non-governmental organizations and pilot investigations throughout the United States and internationally. Several state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and international entities are already using or plan to use CMECS operationally.