CARI is a Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset of wetlands, streams, and riparian areas consisting of polygon and line features with data-rich attributes that can be used for developing broad- or fine-scale landscape level summaries of aquatic features. This statewide dataset is hosted online through EcoAtlas, a web-service that supports the State’s three level monitoring and assessment framework described in the Tenets of a State Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan (WRAMP), which in-turn supports the State’s Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy (WRAPP).  The WRAMP framework employs the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended three level monitoring and assessment framework for wetlands of which the fist level includes landscape level assessments and profiles.  CARI is the statewide base-map for those assessments. 

EcoAtlas tools are being developed to support data management and information dissemination for aquatic resources statewide.  CARI was initiated in 2009 by the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup (CWMW) with the goal of achieving an updateable, standardized map that could be used by environmental managers, planners and the public to assess the diversity and abundance of wetlands across the State. EcoAtlas employs the CARI base-map to visualize the location of wetland projects (with links to detailed project information), monitoring assessments (based on the California Rapid Assessment Method [CRAM]), and summarize the diversity and extent of wetlands via a Landscape Profile tool.

Pre-CARI mapping efforts for California contained varying levels of detail, vintages, coverage, and classifications, which made comparisons of wetland diversity and extents across the state challenging. To improve wetland and riparian map data across the state, CARI has the following goals: 

  • Develop detailed and standard mapping methodology that can be applied (and adapted) to all regions across the state. This includes developing region specific methods for specific wetland types as warranted.
  • Maintain a standardized classification system that can be applied (cross-walked) to different datasets in order to incorporate them into the statewide CARI base-map. This allows ongoing updates to the CARI base-map when new GIS datasets are identified that improve the accuracy and detail of the current CARI map.
  • Be supported by a statewide technical advisory team of GIS and aquatic resource experts so that the mapping standards and classification system can expand and adapt to support  the scientific monitoring and assessment goals of the WRAPP and associated tools

The current CARI dataset varies in detail and accuracy, and represents different time periods for different areas across the state.  However, CARI is the only statewide aquatic resource dataset that has been compiled and standardized to a common classification, which can be used to develop landscape level profiles of aquatic resources at a local, regional, or broader scale (as seen with the Landscape Profile tool).

CARI mapping standards have been applied regionally through federal and state funding opportunities.  GIS datasets were developed by working with regional wetland and GIS experts with local wetland experience. Examples of CARI mapping can be seen in the SF Bay Area, Lake Tahoe Basin (Upper Truckee River and Third Creek Watersheds), Laguna de Santa Rosa Plain (near Santa Rosa ,CA),and the Southern California Coast.


The current version of CARI (CARI v0), available on EcoAtlas, is a compilation of the best available local, regional, and statewide aquatic resource data to produce a seamless coverage with a common classification system. Datasets used in CARI v0 include the National Wetland Inventory (NWI) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) of the US Geological Survey, as well as regional maps that have been developed using more detailed CARI mapping standards (see below). Visit here for a 2012 PowerPoint presentation on the development process for CARI v0.

Mapping Intensification Efforts

Several different map intensification efforts have been conducted based on mapping protocols that standardize the level of detail for aquatic resources. Links to these mapping efforts are listed below under "Subprojects". For more information contact

2009 to 2016
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Geographic Information Systems
Resilient Landscapes Program
Wetland Science
Location Information
General Project Location(s):