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 version of CARI (CARI v0, released in June 2014), is available on and is a compilation of local, regional, and statewide aquatic resource GIS datasets into a seamless, statewide coverage of aquatic resources that employs a common wetland classification system.  Although the dataset varies in detail, and represents different time periods for different areas across the state, CARI is the only statewide aquatic resource dataset that has been compiled and standardized to a common classification system, 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).

The CARI v0 dataset includes:

  • the National Wetland Inventory (NWI, last updated in 2010) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD, high resolution dataset at 1:2400 scale, last updated in 1999) of the US Geological Survey,
  • three regional datasets developed by SFEI’s GIS team using CARI’s standardized, and more detailed, mapping protocols and used to demonstrate the WRAMP framework. Links to more information about these mapping efforts are listed below under "Subprojects" (below). 
    • San Francisco Bay Area Aquatic Resources Inventory (BAARI) – 2011
    • Lake Tahoe Basin (Upper Truckee River and Third Creek Watersheds) - 2013
    • Laguna de Santa Rosa Plain (near Santa Rosa ,CA) – 2013, and
  • Six County Aquatic Resources Inventory (including Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Yuba, and Sutter Counties, California) developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (Sacramento District) through federal funding - 2010.
For more information contact
2008 to 2016
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Geographic Information Systems
Resilient Landscapes Program
Wetland Science
Location Information
General Project Location(s):