Natural Heritage GIS Resources

NHESP produces and maintains several GIS datalayers which are accessible to the public.

The list below describes each of the datalayers and includes a link for free download and a link to a GIS viewer displaying the data.

NHESP Priority Habitats of Rare Species

Priority Habitat is the geographical extent of habitat for all state-listed rare species, both plants and animals, and is codified under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). Habitat alteration within Priority Habitats may result in a "take" of a state-listed species, and is subject to regulatory review by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. With the support of MassGIS, the NHESP Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats are now viewable through an interactive mapping program.

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NHESP Estimated Habitats of Rare Wildlife

Estimated Habitats are a sub-set of the Priority Habitats that show the geographical extent of the habitat of state-listed rare wetland wildlife and is codified under the Wetlands Protection Act, which does not protect rare plants. Habitat alteration within Estimated Habitats that may result in a "take" of a state-listed species is also subject to regulatory review by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. With the support of MassGIS, the NHESP Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats are now viewable through an interactive mapping program.

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NHESP Natural Communities

These polygons represent the extent of various natural communities of biodiversity conservation interest in Massachusetts, and are based on observations recorded and maintained within the Natural Heritage Database. 

NOTE: NHESP is in the process of revising and updating The Classification of the Natural Communities of Massachusetts including the descriptions and associated fact sheets for each community type. As part of the natural community revisions, we have updated the NHESP Natural Communities datalayer on MassGIS. The June 2016 MassGIS datalayer reflects the increased number of natural community occurrences in the NHESP database, previously updated in 2011. The 2016 datalayer uses the revised community names, ranks, and descriptions from the not-yet- released Classification of Natural Communities of Massachusetts Version 2.0. We expect to post a working version of the Classification soon.

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NHESP Certified Vernal Pools

This datalayer contains points for all vernal pools that have been certified by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) according to the Guidelines for Certification of Vernal Pool Habitat (MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, 2009).  

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NHESP Potential Vernal Pools

This datalayer identifies the locations of more than 29,000 potential, unverified, vernal pool habitats throughout Massachusetts.  

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BioMap2 Core Habitat and Critical Natural Landscapes

BioMap2 Core Habitat depicts the most viable habitat for rare and other native species and exemplary natural communities in Massachusetts. Critical Natural Landscapes identify large, naturally vegetated blocks that are relatively free from the impact of roads and other development and provides buffers to wetland and aquatic Core Habitats. These layers are now viewable through an interactive mapping program.  

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