Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS), FGDC-STD-018-2012

Document number | Maintenance authority | Objective | Scope | Sponsored by | Project history

Document number


Maintenance authority



This proposal is seeking FGDC endorsement of an existing draft national standard, the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS), developed by NOAA and NatureServe. The standard will be adapted as necessary to respond to comments and recommendations provided by the coastal resource management community and the FGDC Standards working group.


The scope of this classification standard extends upstream and landward to where ocean derived salts measure less than 0.5%◦ during the period of average annual low flow to the deep ocean. This encompasses estuaries, wetlands, rivers, shorelines, islands, the intertidal zone, the entire benthic zone, and the entire water column from the coast to the deep ocean. The standard is hierarchical, extending spatially and conceptually from systems, which are units of large scale to specific biological assemblages of a very small scale. The standard will be used for classification of all intertidal and subtidal coastal and marine habitats, will interface with the current National wetland classification standard and will incorporate alliances and associations from the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard (Version 2.0), FGDC-STD-005-2008 (an FGDC standard) as appropriate for vegetation-dominated habitats. The standard will not be used to classify terrestrial habitats, nor will it apply to freshwater habitats, with the exception of the Great Lakes. For marine applications of this standard, the domain is all benthic and water column habitat from the land margin to the deep ocean. For coastal applications of this standard, the coastal zone is defined by NOAA’s Coastal Assessment Framework (CAF). CAF is a digital spatial framework that provides a consistently derived, watershed-based framework to organize and present information on the nation's coastal, near-ocean, and Great Lakes resources. Additional information on CAF can be accessed at

CMECS will be used for applications that include:

  • Formation of a scientific basis for the development, implementation and monitoring of ecosystem-based management strategies for coastal systems;
  • Development of regional digital libraries of existing habitat data; Delineation of Marine Protected Areas and development of guidelines for their management;
  • Identification of conservation opportunities for unique biodiversity hotspots and other important habitats;
  • Identification of Essential Fish Habitat and Critical Habitat; and
  • Development of a coastal marine biodiversity inventory for North America.

Sponsored by

Marine and Coastal Spatial Data Subcommittee

Project history

Date Status
2008/01/30 Document date of CMECS proposal
2010/04/09 CMECS standards development group submits committee draft standard to FGDC
2010/04/19 committee draft Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) released for pre-public review by the FGDC Standards WG
2010/07/07 FGDC Standards WG votes to recommend that the FGDC Coordination Group approve release of draft CMECS for public review.
2010/07/20 FGDC Coordination Group approves release of draft CMECS for public review.
2010/08/15 FGDC releases public review draft for comment.  Public review period closes Monday, December 13, 2010. Comments are to be submitted via  For more information, see the Federal Register notice
2012/01 Final draft CMECS and comment resolutions submitted to FGDC OS for pre-endorsement review.
2012/03/20 FGDC Standards WG recommends that CG approve CMECS for FGDC endorsement. 
2012/04/10 FGDC Coordination Group approves CMECS for FGDC endorsement.
2012/06 FGDC Steering Committee endorses CMECS.  Publication version: Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-018-2012