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CZM Coastal Habitat Publications

Find summaries of and links to these publications developed by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

CZM has published and/or funded the following materials on coastal habitat, which are listed in reverse date order (newest to oldest) under the following categories:

Table of Contents

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.)

General Habitat

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.

Salt Marsh

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.

Introduced Species

  • 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

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