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We consider these tools to be among the most useful for ecosystem analyses

Estuary Data

Estuary Data Mapper 

Free, stand-alone desktop tool for searching, viewing, and downloading geospatial data for estuaries and their associated watersheds in the conterminous United States. Using a variety of federal agency web services, the tool provides ready access to environmental time series data such as water and sediment quality, freshwater discharge, and tides. Users can select specific data sets for display and download or choose prepackaged options for input into specific decision-support tools and models. Outputs are available in open-source formats, including shapefiles, kml files, and ASCII grids.

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System-Wide Monitoring Program

Long-term weather and water quality data from the Wells Reserve and the rest of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

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Marsh Analysis and Planning Tool Incorporating Tides and Elevations is an ArcGIS extension used to identify suitable locations for new marsh plants during coastal wetland restoration. By delineating planting areas and providing point data that can be uploaded to GPS receivers, MAPTITE allows users to plant appropriate species accurately to create or restore marsh functions. Requires ArcGIS software and Spatial Analyst extension.

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Ecosystem Services

Atlas of Ocean Wealth 

This online mapping tool contains interactive web apps designed to visualize ecosystem services, including natural coastal protection, blue carbon, fisheries, recreation and tourism, and ecosystem restoration. The database contains habitat distribution data and scenarios that calculate the value of these ecosystem services. The open source web apps, arranged by ecosystem service type, are readily used by both planners and managers and can be further customized to support ocean planning, nature-based adaptation, or mitigation projects.


EnviroAtlas provides interactive tools and resources for exploring the benefits people receive from nature, or "ecosystem goods and services." Hundreds of data layers, as well as built-in and downloadable analysis tools, are available. Users can access, view, and analyze a wide range of information to better understand the potential impacts of various decisions.


InVEST is a family of open-source tools used to map and value goods and services from nature. With InVEST, people can assess quantified tradeoffs associated with alternative management choices and identify areas where investment in natural capital can enhance human development and conservation. InVEST produces maps that model results in either biophysical terms (e.g., tons of carbon sequestered) or economic terms (e.g., net present value of that sequestered carbon). The tool set currently includes 18 distinct ecosystem service models designed for terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and coastal ecosystems. InVEST provides both stand-alone and ArcGIS-based models; however, all models will eventually be migrated to the stand-alone platform.

Land Use Change and Habitat Analysis

C-CAP Land Cover Atlas 

This online data viewer provides user-friendly access to coastal land cover and land cover change information developed through NOAAs Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP). The tool eliminates the need for a desktop GIS or advanced technical expertise by processing data for the user and providing easy access to the distilled information. The tool summarizes general change trends (such as forest losses or new development) and provides tables, maps, and reports to enhance communication and decision-making. 

Coastal Resilience Mapping Portal 

This online, interactive tool helps users visualize future flood risks from sea level rise and storm surge. The tool identifies areas and populations at risk and provides a better understanding of potential ecological, social, and economic impacts. This information is particularly helpful to officials involved in coastal planning, zoning, and land acquisition who must take into consideration rising sea levels and increased storm intensity and frequency.

Habitat Priority Planner 

Habitat analyses that are consistent, repeatable, and transparent. easily change and evaluate criteria and what if (Requires ArcGIS software and Spatial Analyst extension)

Impervious Surface Analysis 

This downloadable suite of easy-to-use scripts for ArcGIS calculates the percentage of impervious surface area within user-selected geographic areas such as watersheds, municipalities, and subdivisions. (Requires ArcGIS 10.x and Spatial Analyst Extension)

Landscape Fragmentation Tool 

Use this downloadable tool to map the fragmentation of a user-specified land cover (e.g., forest). The tool creates value-added map layers that can be used to quantify and assess the amount and type of fragmentation present in a landscape. This information is useful when evaluating potential habitat impacts. While the tool was designed to analyze fragmentation in forest, it can be used to map fragmentation in any land cover of interest. Requires ArcGIS.

Marxan with Zones 

Design new conservation areas, report performance of existing conservation areas, and develop multiple-use zoning plans. flexible enough for natural resource management application in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems.


ENOW Explorer 

For obtaining and comparing economic data, both county and national, for the six sectors dependent on the ocean and Great Lakes: living resources, marine construction, marine transportation, offshore mineral resources, ship and boat building, and tourism and recreation. Derived from Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW) at Digital Coast.


This open-source version of the Nonpoint Source Pollution and Erosion Comparison Tool is used to investigate potential water quality impacts from climate change and development to other land uses. The downloadable tool is designed to be broadly applicable for coastal and noncoastal areas alike. Tool functions simulate erosion, pollution, and the accumulation from overland flow.

Watershed Management Best Practices and Guidance