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Overview of Coastal Habitats in Massachusetts

Find an index of coastal habitat information compiled by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

Coastal habitats—which include dunes, maritime forests, salt marsh, salt ponds, beaches, rocky shores, mudflats, and seagrass beds—are found from the upland fringe to shallow waters beyond the low tide line. These areas, which represent some of the most critical and biologically valuable habitats in Massachusetts, are under threat from factors associated with human uses and development, including climate change. Sea level rise is of particular concern as many of these habitats have evolved in a specific and narrow range of tidal influence. For details on some of these critical habitats, see:

  • Massachusetts Wetlands - This web page produced by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) describes wetland types, ecology and functions, loss and degradation, and climate impacts.
  • Natural Community Fact Sheets - These factsheets prepared by the MassWildlife Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) describe a number of community types in Massachusetts, including coastal habitats.
  • 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.
  • The Marine Resources of the Parker River-Plum Island Sound Estuary: An Update after 30 Years (PDF, 20 MB) - Developed for CZM by Robert Buchsbaum of Massachusetts Audubon Society and Tim Purinton of the Parker River Clean Water Association and Massachusetts Audubon Society and published in 2000, this document updates the 1968 Parker River-Plum Island Sound monograph produced by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. 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.
  • Parker River/Essex Bay ACEC Resource Inventory (PDF, 8 MB) - This 2000 CZM 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.
  • CZM Coastal Habitat Publications - This web page includes descriptions of and links to publications developed CZM on a variety of coastal habitat topics.

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