What is a benthic habitat map?

A benthic habitat map is a:

“Spatial representation of physically distinct areas of seafloor that are associated with particular groups of plants and animals.”

-Harris and Baker. 2012. Seafloor geomorphology as benthic habitat GeoHAB atlas of seafloor geomorphic features and benthic habitats, 1st ed, Elsevier, Amsterdam ; Boston

Benthic Habitat Map

Example of a benthic habitat map in Narragansett Bay, R.I. (Shumchenia 2010)

What can benthic habitat maps tell us?

* Summarize the physical and biological resources of a region
* Species distribution and abundance
* Water and habitat quality
* Changing ecological communities and document invasive species
* Fisheries resources

Why are benthic habitat maps important?

* Support informed decisions about managing our coastlines
* Long-term monitoring
* Baseline for future storm or pollution events
* Identify critical/sensitive habitats

Mapping the submerged habitat of the Cape Cod National Seashore will provide data that can be used by the National Park Service, local communities and researchers for years to come.

Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS)


The CMECS framework incorporates regional, physical and biological information using a common language.

What is CMECS?

* Simple framework to describe natural and human influenced marine environments
* Combines biological, geological, chemical and physical data
* Complies with Federal Geographic Data Committee standards
* Flexible (accepts many types of data)
* A powerful common language that allows data to be compared across regions

We will put all of our physical and biological data into the CMECS framework to describe the biotopes or distinct ecological/physical communities found in Cape Cod.

CMECS Eelgrass Example in Pleasant Bay

Here is an example of how we can use the CMECS framework to classify an eelgrass bed we sampled in the upper part of Pleasant Bay in the summer of 2014.


Eelgrass site in Pleasant Bay, Cape Cod

Water Column Component

Layer: Estuarine Coastal Lower Water Column
Salinity Regime: Upper Polyhaline
Temperature Regime: Moderate

Biotic Component

Setting: Benthic
Class: Aquatic Vegetation Bed
Subclass: Aquatic Vascular Vegetation
Group: Seagrass Bed
Community: Zostera marina Herbaceous Vegetation

Substrate Component

Origin: Geologic
Class: Unconsolidated Mineral
Subclass: Fine Unconsolidated
Group: Sandy Mud


Geoform Component

Tectonic Setting: Passive Continental Margin
Physiographic Setting: Lagoonal Estuary
Origin: Geologic
Level 1: Cove
Level 1 Type: Mainland Cove

Click on the images below to learn more about benthic habitat mapping

Benthic Habitat Mapping Home

Benthic Habitat Field and Laboratory Work

Marine Invertebrate Gallery

Contact Us

Entanglement Hotline: (800) 900-3622
[email protected]
(508) 487-3622
5 Holway Avenue
Provincetown, MA 02657
(508) 487-3623

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