University of Massachusetts Amherst

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Overview – Landscape Characterization

The first step in the CAPS approach is the characterization of both the developed and undeveloped elements of the landscape. GIS data from a variety of sources were combined to create a base map depicting natural communities, developed land types, and roads.

Developed land uses are grouped into categories such as various classes of roads and highways, commercial, industrial, low-density residential, agricultural land, and other elements of the human dominated landscape. Undeveloped ("natural") land is mapped based on an ecological community classification scheme(e.g., forest, coastal beach, shrub swamp, salt marsh, bog, pond).
All data are mapped in 30 m grids. The final land cover layer depicts natural communities, development and roads.

Landcover for the town of Montague, MA.

Natural Community Classification used in CAPS


  • Forest
  • Open land/old field
  • Powerline Shrubland

Freshwater wetland and aquatic

  • Forested wetland
  • Shrub swamp
  • Bog
  • Shallow marsh
  • Deep marsh
  • Vernal pool
  • Pond
  • Lake
  • Low-gradient 1st order stream
  • High-gradient 1st order stream
  • Low-gradient 2nd order stream
  • High-gradient 2nd order stream
  • Low-gradient 3rd order stream
  • High-gradient 3rd order stream
  • Low-gradient 4th order stream
  • High-gradient 4thorder stream
  • Low-gradient 5th order stream
  • High-gradient 5thorder stream

Coastal wetland

  • Rocky intertidal shore
  • Coastal beach
  • Tidal flat
  • Salt marsh
  • Salt pond/bay
  • Ocean
  • 1st order estuary
  • 2nd order estuary
  • 3rd order estuary
  • 4th order estuary
  • 5th order estuary

Coastal Upland

  • Sea cliff
  • Vegetated dune
  • Coastal (unvegetated) dune

CAPS Input Data Layers describes the GIS data used by CAPS.

CAPS Ecological Community Descriptions provides description of ecological communities.

CAPS Land Cover Classification provides a list of developed and undeveloped land cover classes used in CAPS.