The California Aquatic Resources Inventory (CARI) is a seamless statewide map compiled from multiple data sources and standardized to a common classification system. This statewide dataset provides the best available map of state surface waters and serves as the base map in EcoAtlas to coordinate monitoring and assessment at the landscape scale across federal, state, and local agencies, while providing enough detail to inform local land use planning.

CARI is a Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset of surface waters and their riparian areas consisting of polygon and line features with data-rich attributes that can be used for developing broad- or fine-scale landscape summaries of aquatic features. Accompanying CARI is the CARI Editor, an interactive, online GIS mapping interface that facilitates user-generated updates to information associated with the CARI dataset. When users encounter any discrepancy between CARI details and actual landscape conditions, they can suggest changes that can be reviewed and incorporated into the authoritative CARI data, thereby maintaining CARI’s currency and ready applicability to decision making.

This statewide dataset is hosted online through EcoAtlas, an online toolset 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 advances 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 first level includes landscape level assessments and profiles.  CARI is the statewide base-map for those assessments.

Additional Background

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

Current Version

The current version of CARI (CARI v0.2, released in May of 2016), is available on SFEI's Data Center 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 (TARIv2.1) - 2016
    • Laguna de Santa Rosa Plain (near Santa Rosa ,CA. NCARI) – 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 [email protected]

CRAM is a cost-effective and scientifically defensible rapid assessment method for monitoring and assessing the ecological conditions of wetlands throughout California. It takes less than half a day to assess a wetland area, and is designed evaluate the condition of the wetland based on its landscape setting, hydrology, physical structure and biological structure.  Because the methodology is standardized for over seven types of wetlands, ecological condition scores can be compared at the local, regional and statewide landscape scales.

SFEI develops, hosts and manages the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) website and its associated database containing over 5,000 landscape assessments from across the State. The comprehensive site features statewide support for CRAM data managment, training, documentation, and reporting tools to monitor and assess over seven kinds of wetlands using standardized rapid assessment protocols developed by the CRAM Steering Committee (Level-2 Committee). Appointed by the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup (CWMW), the Level-2 Committee meets quarterly to review and maintain CRAM's field manuals, training procedures, data management, and reporting tools. The L-2 Committee is chaired by a staff member from the State Water Board and includes wetland scientists and technical staff from state and federal agencies with regulatory or managment responsibility for the health of aquatic resources as well as from academia and other scientific organizations across the state. 

CRAM can also be used to assess the performance of compensatory mitigation projects and restoration projects. The easy-to-use, online data entry forms ensures that all of the appropriate site information and field data associated with CRAM assessments can be archived online and access by environmental managers, planners, and stakeholders to inform wetland management and planning decisions. The ability to draw the CRAM assessment area online using an aerial image of the site, makes it easy for CRAM practitioners to enter their site information making it available on EcoAtlas (if allowed by the landowner). Public CRAM assessment areas are also available as a web service, which affords a broad degree of availability and transparency to support contemporary open-data initiatives.

Want to know where to find habitat projects?

More and more groups rely on Project Tracker to assist with their reporting because Project Tracker standardizes project data across programs so it is easier to summarize information for reporting purposes. Especially in the Bay Area, it is the most comprehensive regional dataset for project information.

Project Tracker provides the data for the restored tidal wetlands updates in the State of the Estuary 2019 Update and The Pulse of the Bay. It tracks Restoration Authority funded and eligible projects and generates the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project maps. The San Francisco Bay Joint Venture tracks their habitat projects in Project Tracker so they can advance projects and generate summaries on progress towards meeting regional goals. Additionally, Project Tracker can assist with developing survey designs that target data collection near restoration sites.

You can help make regional reporting more accurate and complete by entering your projects into Project Tracker and keeping the information up-to-date. Projects are also visualized and integrated with other datasets on EcoAtlas. For more information, visit

EcoAtlas dashboards offer summarized views of qualified information provided by Project Tracker and the California Aquatic Resource Inventory (CARI). These dynamic visualizations help measure the cumulative benefits of public policies and programs for California's aquatic resources.

Synthesized project information contributed by restoration practitioners and permittees can be dynamically queried in understandable regional summaries. Agency and program executives can quickly access relevant information to address management questions. As interactive summaries, the dashboards are useful in the context of local, regional, and statewide agency programs, where interested uses can explore the summarized information at various spatial scales.

The dashboards also reveal differences in the availability of information from place to place. By helping to identify missing information, the EcoAtlas dashboards will help address these gaps in the future.

If you are interested in accessing data on a project-by-project basis, then the EcoAtlas download tools provide ready access to the hosted project data. You are able to filter by numerous geospatial, categorical, and other means.

Partners & Funders: Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy; USEPA Wetland Program Development Grant

More Information

Learn about the activities of the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup including details about the Wetland and Riparian Monitoring Program (WRAMP).

EcoAtlas is a set of tools for generating, assembling, storing, visualizing, sharing, and reporting environmental data and information. The tools can be used individually or together, and they can be adjusted or tuned to meet the specific needs of environmental planners, regulators, managers, scientists, and educators. The maps and tools can be used to create a complete picture of aquatic resources in the landscape by integrating stream and wetland maps, restoration information, and monitoring results with land use, transportation, and other information important to the state’s wetlands.

Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Geographic Information Systems
Software Engineering
Wetland Monitoring & Assessment
Location Information
General Project Location(s):