See the Coastal Habitat Program for details on CZM efforts to monitor and protect salt marsh, eelgrass, and other coastal habitats and CZM Publications for the full list of materials published by CZM.
(Note: Any views or opinions presented in publications prepared for CZM are solely those of the author[s] and do not necessarily represent those of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Please see our website policies.)
- Story Map Tours of the Massachusetts Coast - CZM created a set of story maps in 2021 that provide an overview of the entire 1,500-mile Massachusetts coastline and maps of each of CZM’s five regions to highlight some of the coastal habitats, state parks and sanctuaries, ports and harbors, recreational beaches and waterfront access, and more.
- Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Policy Guide - October 2011 - The Policy Guide is the official statement of Massachusetts coastal program policies and legal authorities and includes the habitat policies that govern CZM’s habitat program and project review.
- Charting the Course: A Blueprint for the Future of Aquatic Habitat Restoration in Massachusetts - This 2008 report provides the findings and recommendations of the Aquatic Habitat Restoration Task Force, which was chaired and staffed by CZM.
- Coastlines 2008 - This edition of CZM’s magazine covers the land/air/sea connection and the impacts of land-based activities on coastal and marine habitats.
- Habitat Classification Feasibility Study for Coastal and Marine Environments in Massachusetts (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2007 report summarizes and evaluates four habitat classification studies to determine the most suitable framework or combination of frameworks for classifying coastal and marine habitats in Massachusetts.
- Coastlines Winter 2004/2005 - This edition of CZM’s magazine focuses on coastal habitats in Massachusetts.
- Ecosystems and Resources of the Massachusetts Coast (PDF, 11 MB) - This CZM publication from 1975 gives an excellent overview of the ecosystems and geological processes of coastal Massachusetts.
Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs)
- Coastal Habitat Vulnerability Assessment for the Sandy Neck Barrier Beach System Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) (in development) - CZM conducted a vulnerability assessment of the critically important coastal habitats located in the ACEC to address the resiliency of these habitats to climate change and other anthropogenic impacts. This report provides recommendations and action steps for habitat restoration, wildlife, land management, planning and capacity building, and related issues.
- Crossing Assessment for the Sandy Neck Barrier Beach System Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) (PDF, 24 MB) - Published in 2019, this assessment of selected crossings (i.e., culverts, bridges, and other structures that allow streams and rivers to flow under roads, paths, and rail beds) provides preliminary data for identifying and prioritizing restoration opportunities in the Sandy Neck ACEC watersheds.
- An Assessment of Resource Management Strategies in the Parker River/Essex Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2001 report provides an overview of natural resource issues, case studies, and ideas for improved regulatory and nonregulatory management strategies as identified by volunteers and staff from local communities. The report describes this local perspective and identifies approaches for regional management of the area.
- Parker River/Essex Bay ACEC Resource Inventory (PDF, 8 MB) - This 2000 document identifies resource trends, threats, and opportunities for restoration within this Area of Critical Environmental Concern based on a literature review of published information/and data and interviews with scientists.
- Technical Report: Increasing agency confidence in eelgrass maps used for project review and ocean planning (PDF, 56 MB) - This final report developed by the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Partnership (MassBays) and CZM in 2023 completed an 18-month project funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Project of Special Merit grant to assess different methods of mapping eelgrass. In this study, semi-synchronous drone, airplane, satellite, and side scan sonar missions were conducted alongside SCUBA diver and photo ground-truthing surveys at five Massachusetts eelgrass meadows. Results showed that all remote sensing methods under-mapped eelgrass, especially at the deep edge, and map accuracy generally decreased with decreasing imagery resolution.
- Story Map - Comparison of Eelgrass Mapping Methods - In 2021, MassBays and CZM received NOAA Project of Special Merit grant funding to assess different methods of mapping eelgrass. The story map offers detailed descriptions, maps, photographs, videos, and slideshow features of the eelgrass mapping project.
- Identifying Locations for Eelgrass Habitat Restoration in the Annisquam River (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2008 paper describes a study of probable causes of eelgrass habitat degradation and the potential to restore eelgrass habitat in the Annisquam River. This study also provides the foundation for CZM and the City of Gloucester to develop a plan to restore eelgrass habitat in the area.
- Field Study of Water Quality in Support of Eelgrass Habitat Restoration Planning in the Annisquam River (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2007 paper describes a study of water clarity and chemistry in the Annisquam River as part of a CZM effort to develop an eelgrass habitat restoration plan for the area.
- Adaptive Management for Impacts to Eelgrass Habitat in Gloucester Harbor (PDF, 2 MB) - This 2007 publication co-authored by CZM, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant College Program, Cambridge, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency summarizes an effort in 2006-2007 to create an eelgrass bank, raise awareness of the value of eelgrass habitat and facilitate transplanting efforts to Boston Harbor.
- Eelgrass Habitat Restoration in the Annisquam River (PDF, 408 KB) - This 2007 fact sheet discusses the importance of eelgrass and the results of a project to restore eelgrass at a site in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
- CZScience - Codium Up, Eelgrass Down: Invasives Impact Buzzards Bay - This article on page 59 of the 2007 Coastlines (PDF, 39 MB) discusses the impact of the invasive Codium algae on eelgrass habitat.
- Gaining Ground: Defining Priority Research for Resilient Salt Marshes (PDF, 336 KB) - As co-lead of the Salt Marsh Working Group (SMWG), CZM helped to facilitate the identification of research priorities to support collaboration and research that promotes resilient salt marsh habitat now and into the future. SMWG released this 2022 summary document to communicate these priorities and to inspire coordinated, transdisciplinary discussion and action around the complex and intersecting challenges of salt marsh management and resilience. See Salt Marsh Working Group for additional information.
- Modeling the Effects of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Wetlands - This report—which was prepared for CZM in 2016 by Woods Hole Group with technical support from CZM, Marine Biological Laboratory, and other partners—details the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) modeling approach, identifies data gaps and limitations, summarizes results at multiple scales, and provides recommendations for improved simulations.
- Historical Salt Marsh Restoration in Massachusetts: A Comparative Study of Pre-Restoration and Post-Restoration Biological Monitoring Data (PDF, 5MB) - This 2015 investigation examined vegetation and macroinvertebrate data at five salt marsh restoration locations before tidal flow restoration (from 1999-2003) and post restoration (2013). In addition, two reference salt marsh sites located in relatively undisturbed watersheds of Cape Cod were sampled for comparison.
- Survey of Potential Marsh Dieback Sites in Coastal Massachusetts (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2007 report describes work done to qualitatively assess 25 sites in coastal Massachusetts where previous anecdotal reports had indicated the occurrence of marsh dieback. Along with the results of the survey, this report includes recommendations for future efforts for continued investigations and observations.
- Empirically Derived Indices of Biotic Integrity for Forested Wetlands, Coastal Salt Marshes and Wadable Freshwater Streams in Massachusetts (PDF, 1.14 MB) - In 2007, CZM began a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Wetlands Program and researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass-Amherst) to develop a comprehensive state monitoring and assessment program for wetlands. The centerpiece of this effort is a computer model developed at UMass-Amherst, called the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS), that uses an ecosystem-based approach for assessing ecological integrity. The CAPS team also sought to develop Indices of Biotic Integrity (IBIs), created with field-collected data of flora and fauna, to support the assessment approach. This 2013 publication provides details on the IBI effort.
- 100 Years of Estuarine Marsh Trends in Massachusetts (1893 to 1995): Boston Harbor, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands (PDF, 4 MB) - This 2005 investigation provides a comprehensive examination of the loss and gain of estuarine marshes in these regions since the late 1800s.
- Cape Cod Salt Marsh Assessment Project; Final Grant Report, Volume 2: Responses of selected salt marsh indicators to tide restriction 2000-2003 (PDF, 9 MB) - This 2004 report details the second investigation of the Cape Cod Salt Marsh Assessment Project. This investigation provided a long-term comparison of indicators from three pairs of salt marshes (each pair having a marsh area with restricted tidal hydrology and a corresponding area with normal tidal hydrology).
- Massachusetts North Shore Wetlands Assessment Transfer Project 1998 (PDF, 6 MB) - This 2003 report focuses on efforts to apply a methodology developed by CZM and the University of Massachusetts during a pilot project in the Waquoit Bay watershed to selected wetland study sites in the Ipswich and the North Coastal watersheds.
- A Volunteer's Handbook for Monitoring New England Salt Marshes - This 2002 publication was developed to help local volunteer groups collect and record data on salt marsh health in a consistent and scientifically sound manner. It is also an excellent general reference on Massachusetts salt marshes.
- Cape Cod Salt Marsh Assessment Project; Final Grant Report, Volume 1: Relationship of salt marsh Indices of Biotic Integrity to surrounding land use (PDF, 4 MB) - This 1999 report details the first investigation of the Cape Cod Salt Marsh Assessment Project, which looked to advance and improve the salt marsh assessment approach developed by CZM. Conducted in the 1999 field season (May to October), the investigation examined salt marsh indicators from six sites on the Cape Cod Bay coast with varying types and intensities of human land use or disturbance.
- Wetland Ecological Integrity: An Assessment Approach, Waquoit Bay (PDF, 2) - This 1998 document discusses the Wetlands Health Assessment Toolbox (WHAT) approach and a project to evaluate its effectiveness, including recommendations for further development of the WHAT approach and management actions.
- Tide Gateway: Tidegate Inventory and Data Evaluation Gateway - Final Report (PDF, 12 MB) - Prepared by Geosyntec Consultants in 2016 and revised in 2017, this report summarizes an effort by CZM and the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Partnership, funded with a grant from the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, to inventory and map all the known tide gates from the New Hampshire border south to Provincetown, excluding Buzzards Bay, Mount Hope Bay, and the Islands. It includes management recommendations along with the following attributes for each of the 149 tide gates: operator, tide gate type (flap gate, sluice gate, self-regulating tide gate, etc.), original purpose, condition, and operational status.
Beaches and Dunes
- Managing Seaweed Accumulations on Recreational Beaches (PDF, 2 MB) - This guidance published by CZM in 2013 was developed to help local officials and beach managers effectively address seaweed accumulations on recreational beaches while protecting coastal resources. It focuses on how seaweed is a natural and important part of the marine ecosystem, but when accumulations occur on recreational beaches, conflicts can arise that need to be addressed.
- Guidelines for Barrier Beach Management in Massachusetts (PDF, 12 MB) - Published by CZM in 1994, this report of the Massachusetts Barrier Beach Task Force was designed as a reference tool for those charged with the responsibility of preparing barrier beach management plans and contains information about the protection of habitat for plants and wildlife, including numerous rare and endangered species.
- Coastal Landscaping website - While offering landscaping options for controlling erosion and preventing storm damage on coastal banks, beaches, and dunes, this CZM website also provides useful information on landscaping to protect water quality and wildlife habitats.
- Marine Invasive Species Identification Cards - These cards, developed in 2019, provide information on 18 common invasive species in New England monitored by the Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative (MIMIC).
- MIMIC Story Map - Developed in 2019, this story map displays data from the MIMIC and includes photos and descriptions of species monitored, maps of where each species has been observed, and additional information.
- BLOG: Not from Around Here - Green Crabs - In this post from 2014, a CZM intern explains her experience participating in a summer field project surveying green crab populations in the salt marsh.
- Non-Native Seaweed in Massachusetts (PDF, 2 MB) - Published by CZM in 2013, this fact sheet summarizes information on invasive seaweed species in Massachusetts, their ecology, and potential impacts to the marine ecosystem and economy.
- Massachusetts Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan (PDF, 2 MB) - This plan, prepared by CZM in 2002 on behalf of the Massachusetts Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group, outlines a five-year strategy to manage threats from aquatic invaders.
- Defending Massachusetts Against Biological Invaders - This article on page 33 of the Summer 2002 Coastlines (PDF, 4 MB) provides an overview of the marine aquatic invasive species issue.
- CZM Marine Invasive Species Publications - This page includes a complete list of the publications developed or funded by CZM on invasive species under the following categories: general information on marine invasive species, management, identification, monitoring, Rapid Assessment Surveys, impacts, and prevention.
Ocean, Seafloor, and Other Marine Habitats
- Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan - The ocean plan (with the most recent update in 2021) protects critical marine habitat and important water-dependent uses and provides a management framework for ocean-based projects in Massachusetts. The ocean plan’s Baseline Assessment is an extensive characterization of current knowledge of human uses, natural and cultural resources, the physical environment, and economic value in Massachusetts ocean waters and adjacent federal waters. Also included in the ocean plan website are Work Group Reports on Habitat, Fisheries, Transportation and Navigation, Sediment and Geology, Cultural Heritage and Recreational Uses, and Energy and Infrastructure.
- Gloucester Harbor Characterization Report: Environmental History, Human Influences, and Status of Marine Resources (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2004 report describes human and natural resources, discusses the environmental history of development and human influences, characterizes current understanding of environmental quality, examines lobster fishing and lobster population structure, investigates fish community structure, and describes seafloor habitat in Gloucester Harbor.
- Strategic Plan for Mapping Massachusetts’ Benthic Marine Habitats (PDF, 1 MB) - This 2004 “evolving draft” plan gives a brief overview of the numerous types of equipment that are used to collect benthic habitat data, recommendations on which types of equipment are most suited for mapping in various water depths, a detailed protocol for groundtruth sampling/data classification and analysis, and recommendations for conducting benthic habitat mapping in Massachusetts.
- Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Assessment Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts (PDF, 1 MB) - Prepared by the Maguire Group Inc. under contract to CZM as part of the dredged material management planning process, this 2001 publication was prepared for use in determining the potential impact of pending or future projects within Gloucester Harbor on the existing fisheries resources.
- The Marine Resources of the Parker River-Plum Island Sound Estuary: An Update after 30 Years (PDF, 20 MB) - This 2000 report developed for CZM by Robert Buchsbaum of Massachusetts Audubon Society and Tim Purinton of the Parker River Clean Water Association and Massachusetts Audubon Society updates the 1968 Parker River-Plum Island Sound monograph produced by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The original monograph was based on one year of field study on the physical characteristics, water quality, and fish and shellfish resources of the estuary. The 2000 report also contains historical information on the fisheries supported by the estuary.
- CZM Seafloor and Habitat Mapping Publications - This web page includes a complete listing of publications funded or published by CZM on a variety of seafloor and habitat mapping topics including seafloor surveys.
CZ-Tips on Coastal Plants, Wildlife, and Habitats
- CZ-Tip - 10 Ways to Find, Safely Enjoy, and Protect Massachusetts Beaches - From keeping off the dunes to watching out for rip currents, this CZM tip talks about how to stay safe and have fun at the beaches of the Bay State.
- CZ-Tip - Birdwatching on the Coast - Discover the threatened and endangered birds that visit the Massachusetts coast, how to protect them, and the best places to go to spot the most birdlife along the shore.
- CZ-Tip - Bring Your Dog to the Beach the Coast-Friendly Way - This CZ-Tip explains the impacts that dogs can have on coastal water quality and steps you can take to "leave only paw prints."
- CZ-Tip - Discover Fascinating Features, Forms, and Even Fossils at the Beach - This tip features the beach, with information on where the sand comes from, what gives the beach its color, and why this coastal landform looks so different from day to day.
- CZ-Tip - Help Protect At-Risk Wildlife and Plants in Massachusetts Coastal Habitats - Learn about threatened and endangered animals and plants that depend on the unique coastal and ocean habitats of Massachusetts, and ways to help safeguard species and habitats.
- CZ-Tip - Identifying Animals and Plants on the Massachusetts Coast - Identify shorebirds, marine mammals, seaweeds, dune plants, and more with this tip.
- CZ-Tip - Learn to Spot, and Deal with, the Aliens in Our Midst - This tip discusses simple steps to reduce the spread of invasive species.
- CZ-Tip - Learn What Lurks in a Massachusetts Tide Pool - See this tip to learn more about strange marine organisms and the creative characteristics that allow them to survive this harsh intertidal environment, along with a guide to destinations where you can make your own tide pool discoveries.
- CZ-Tip - Massachusetts Most Intriguing Marine Creatures - From the ugliest to the most dramatic, check out this page for some weird and wonderful sea creatures right here in Massachusetts.
- CZ-Tip - Sharing Coastal Waters with Sea Turtles - This tip covers the sea turtles that frequent Massachusetts ocean waters and what you can do to protect them.
- CZ-Tip - Sign Up for Coastal Citizen Science - This tip describes citizen-science opportunities that help advance the knowledge of coastal habitats, including programs related to salt marshes and water quality, plants and animals, and invasive species.