This map shows biological habitats in the ocean in the Northeast region. Biological habitat is a term used for eelgrass beds, wetlands, corals, shellfish beds, and other structures formed of marine life, which provide habitat for other kinds of marine life. Biological habitats provide ecosystem services that benefit marine species and humans, such as serving as nursery grounds for fish and shellfish, enhancing biodiversity, producing food, and buffering shorelines from storm waves and flooding. Also shown on this map are selected biological features of aquatic habitats: primary productivity (chlorophyll a concentrations), secondary productivity (zooplankton abundance), and benthic fauna.

Data Considerations

The absence of a particular biological habitat at a location on the map does not necessarily mean that habitat type does not occur there.

Patterns in primary and secondary productivity are dynamic on seasonal and finer time scales. As a result, seasonal maps of primary and secondary productivity cannot adequately characterize bloom dynamics, but they do provide an overall indication of average productivity among seasons.

Eelgrass beds, wetlands, shellfish habitats, and cold-water corals are less ephemeral than primary and secondary productivity. However, the locations of these biological habitats can change over time and their presence varies at fine spatial scales in ways that are not depicted on these maps.

Benthic fauna are also dynamic over time, and only averages are shown on the map. Annual animations of these data for each species/group can be viewed by clicking the link at the bottom of the legend.

The eelgrass layer and shellfish habitat layers were compiled from multiple state datasets. See the Eelgrass Resources Page and associated metadata with each of those layers for more information.


These data are final as referenced in the 2016 Northeast Ocean Plan. We are working with federal and state agencies and regional partners to ensure that the biological habitat data represented on these maps are complete.

Support for Regional Ocean Planning

For information about how these data and maps were developed with stakeholder input and will be used to support regional ocean planning, please see the 2016 Northeast Ocean Plan at www.neoceanplanning.org.