University of Massachusetts Amherst

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System


Massachusetts Version of CAPS Data

In November 2011 the Landscape Ecology Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst completed its first comprehensive, statewide assessment of ecological integrity for Massachusetts using the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS). Massachusetts CAPS was updated in 2015, and most recently in 2020. CAPS was originally developed for Massachusetts but was eventually expanded to cover the 13-state, North Atlantic region. The thirteen-state DSL version of CAPS allow consideration of development and landscape patterns in bordering states, but was constrained to use data that were universally available throughout the region.

The Massachusetts version of CAPS is probably better for most of Massachusetts, because it uses data not available in other states, as well as some data (e.g. wetlands and land cover mapping) that are better than what were available for the region. The regional (DSL) CAPS data are better if you are interested in IEI across state lines, or even within Massachusetts for areas that are close to borders with other states. DSL also includes data and products that were not part of the Mass CAPS assessment, including critical linkages analyses of dams and road-stream crossings, risk of development, climate change vulnerability, and landscape conservation design products.

After the first Mass CAPS assessment in 2011, town-specific maps were created depicting Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) scores in each town. In addition, town-specific maps were created for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for use in wetlands permitting. These town-specific maps have been updated for the 2020 version of Mass CAPS. The results of these assessments are available in three formats.

  • Georeferenced TIFF files (geoTIFFs). GeoTIFFs may be viewed using an image viewer, web browser, or with GIS software. GeoTIFFs are available for IEI, land cover, metrics (raw and scaled) and ecological settings variables. These results are from the 2020 Mass CAPS analysis.
  • Maps for each city and town in Massachusetts depicting the Integrated Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI-I) scores. These maps are in the form of high-resolution PDFs depicting areas in the top 50% of values using integrated IEI scores. Ecological communities are differentiated by color for the following categories: forest (green), shrubland (orange), coastal uplands (yellow to brown), coastal wetlands (cyan) and freshwater wetlands and aquatic (blue). For all ecological community types darker colors indicating higher-valued cells. These results are from the 2020 Mass CAPS analysis.
  • Maps depicting "Habitat of Potential Regional and Statewide Importance" as defined in MassDEP's Massachusetts Wildlife Habitat Protection Guidance for Inland Wetlands. These maps, also known as "Important Habitat" maps, are available as high-resolution PDFs for each town and city. They are based on the integrated index of ecological integrity and depict all areas (not just regulated "resource areas") that score in the top 40% for IEI-I. Areas so designated as "Habitat of Potential Regional and Statewide Importance" represent 40% of the undeveloped landscape as well as 40% of each ecological community (e.g. forest, shallow marsh, shrub swamp, forested wetland, salt marsh). "Important Habitat" data are also available for download as Arc grids or GeoTIFFs. These results are from the 2020 Mass CAPS analysis.