Northeast Ocean Data announces the release of updated maps of physical and biological habitat data. The newly reconfigured Habitat theme is subdivided into physical habitat and biological habitat to simplify data access and to group similar types of data.

Maps of physical habitat, such as oceanographic properties and sediment types, depict the structure and dynamics of the ocean environment that shape marine life and human activity patterns. Included in this release are regional-scale maps of:

  • Seabed forms
  • Estimated sediment grain size from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Ecoregional Assessment
  • USGS usSEABED Atlantic Coast Offshore Surficial Sediment
  • A data quality index for the usSEABED database
  • Surface and bottom currents
  • Surface and bottom temperature
  • Water column stratification

The usSEABED Data Quality Index is a new layer that is intended to be a companion layer to the usSEABED Surficial Sediment layer. The data quality index is informed by a methodology developed and employed by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, which assigns data quality values to samples based on the age of the sample, the sampling device, and the analytical technique used. The Data Quality Index will help users better understand the strengths and limitations of the available surficial sediment data for the Atlantic coast.

usSEABED Sediment

Screenshot of usSEABED Map

 usSEABED Data Quality

usSEABED Data Quality

The biological habitat maps show eelgrass beds, wetlands, shellfish beds, and cold-water corals—all of which provide habitat for other types of marine life. The maps also show important biological processes, such as primary and secondary productivity. Biological habitats provide ecosystem services that benefit marine life populations and humans, such as nursery grounds for fish and shellfish, enhanced biodiversity, food, and buffers from storms and flooding.


Eelgrass Map


Screenshot of Cold-water Corals Map


Screenshot of Wetlands Map

Many of the habitat datasets had been displayed previously on Northeast Ocean Data under different data themes. They have been reorganized into a habitat theme and updated to reflect the presentation of information in the forthcoming Draft Northeast Ocean Plan.

For information about how these data and maps are being developed with stakeholder input and used to support regional ocean planning, please visit the marine life and habitat page on the Northeast Regional Planning Body’s website.