FGDC endorses the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS)
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has endorsed the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) as the first-ever comprehensive federal standard for classifying and describing coastal and marine ecosystems.
CMECS Provides a Common Language
CMECS offers a simple standard framework and common terminology for describing natural and human influenced ecosystems, from the upper tidal reaches of estuaries to the deepest portions of the ocean. The framework is organized into two settings, biogeographic and aquatic, and four components, water column, geoform, substrate, and biotic. Each describes a separate aspect of the environment and biota. Settings and components can be used in combination or independently to describe ecosystem features. The hierarchical arrangement of units of the settings and components allows users to apply CMECS to the scale and specificity that best suits their needs. Modifiers allow users to customize the classification to meet specific needs.
CMECS Meets a Broad Set of Needs
CMECS is designed to meet the needs of many users, including coastal resource managers and planners, development interests, engineers, mappers, and researchers from government, industry, and academia. The system was also developed to address applications on scales ranging from local and regional to national and beyond.
CMECS Reflects Wide Stakeholder Input
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NatureServe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey worked with over a hundred scientists and coastal managers to develop and implement the standard. CMECS has been implemented in projects in a variety of geographies. A rigorous four month public and peer review process led to consideration of and response to more than 800 individual comments from 31 individuals and organizations.
CMECS Is a Dynamic Content Standard
The use and application of CMECS will improve our knowledge of marine ecosystems and may bring to light other necessary additions and adjustments to the standard. Users are encouraged to provide suggestions about possible changes to CMECS, which will follow a regular peer review and revision cycle. Protocols and tools for this process are currently in development.
Practical applications for CMECS include:
- Ecosystem inventory and mapping
- Coastal and marine spatial planning
- Marine Protected Area selection, evaluation, and assessment
- Resource management and monitoring
- Conservation status assessment
- Habitat modelling