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National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, 2024: NOAA's Estuarine Living Marine Resources (ELMR) Data Base,

Item Identification

Title: NOAA's Estuarine Living Marine Resources (ELMR) Data Base
Short Name: elmr
Status: Completed
Publication Date: 2000

In 1985, NOAA launched the Estuarine Living Marine Resources (ELMR) Program to develop a consistent data base on the distribution, relative abundance, and life history characteristics of ecologically and economically important fishes and invertebrates in the Nation's estuaries. The Nationwide ELMR data base includes information for 153 species found in 122 estuaries and coastal embayments. Species are selected according to a set of criteria, which consider their commercial, recreational, and ecological value, as well as their utility as an indicator of environmental stress.The data base is divided into five study regions - West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and North Atlantic. For each species, five life stages are considered - adults, juveniles, larvae, spawning, and eggs - with some exceptions. Each estuary is subdivided into one to five salinity zones. Relative abundance is ranked by month for each life stage of each species, in each salinity zone of each estuary. The program utilized a consistent sampling strategy that enables comparisons to be made among species, specific life stages and times of year within, and to a lesser degree, among estuarine systems.In addition, a series of reports have been published which summarize the methods and results of the ELMR Program. These include a National report (2000), regional data summary reports for the North Atlantic (1994), Mid-Atlantic (1994), Southeast (1991), Gulf of Mexico (1992), and West Coast (1990), and regional life history summary reports for the West Coast (1991) and Gulf of Mexico (1997). Free copies of these reports are available upon request from the Biogeography Program (301-713-3028).


Estuaries are among the most productive natural systems and are important nursery areas that provide food, refuge from predation, and valuable habitat for many species. In spite of the well documented importance of estuaries to fishes and invertebrates, few consistent and comprehensive data bases exist that allow examinations of relationships between estuarine species found in or among groups of estuaries. The ELMR program was developed to provide a national database of estuarine species and their associated habitats, that enables comparisons to be made among species, specific life stages and times of year within, and to a lesser degree, among estuarine systems.




Theme Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Science Keywords
ISO 19115 Topic Category
ISO 19115 Topic Category
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Biosphere > Animal Taxonomy > Zooplankton
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Biosphere > Ecological Dynamics > Biomass
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Biosphere > Ecological Dynamics > Endangered Species
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Biosphere > Ecological Dynamics > Indicator Species
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Biosphere > Ecological Dynamics > Life History
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Oceans > Marine Biology > Fish
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) v.4.2.2 EARTH SCIENCE > Oceans > Marine Biology > Marine Invertebrates
NOS Data Explorer Topic Category environmental monitoring

Spatial Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
None Alabama
None California
None Connecticut
None Delaware
None Florida
None Georgia
None Gulf of Mexico
None Louisiana
None Maine
None Maryland
None Massachusetts
None Mid Atlantic
None Mississippi
None New Hampshire
None New Jersey
None New York
None North Atlantic
None North Carolina
None Oregon
None Rhode Island
None South Carolina
None Southeast
None Texas
None United States
None Virginia
None Washington
None West Coast

Physical Location

Organization: National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
City: Silver Spring
State/Province: MD

Data Set Information

Data Set Scope Code: Data Set
Maintenance Frequency: As Needed
Data Presentation Form: online database
Distribution Liability:

These data were prepared by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, make any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed in this report, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference therein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. Any views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof. Although all data have been used by NOAA, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by NOAA as to the accuracy of the data and/or related materials. The act of distribution shall not constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by NOAA in the use of these data or related materials.

Data Set Credit: The implementation and success of the nationwide ELMR program is due in part to the efforts of hundreds of scientists and managers who have assisted in compiling the species distribution, relative abundance, and life history information.

Support Roles

Data Steward

CC ID: 464654
Date Effective From: 2000
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): NCCOS Scientific Data Coordinator
Email Address:


CC ID: 464656
Date Effective From: 2000
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): NCCOS Scientific Data Coordinator
Email Address:

Metadata Contact

CC ID: 464657
Date Effective From: 2000
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): NCCOS Scientific Data Coordinator
Email Address:

Point of Contact

CC ID: 464655
Date Effective From: 2000
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): NCCOS Scientific Data Coordinator
Email Address:

Principal Investigator

CC ID: 464658
Date Effective From: 2000
Date Effective To:
Contact (Person): Nelson, David Moe
Email Address:


Currentness Reference: Publication date: the ELMR project began in 1985, information for each estuary was compiled from available sources.

Extent Group 1

Extent Group 1 / Geographic Area 1

CC ID: 464661
W° Bound: -125
E° Bound: -66
N° Bound: 49
S° Bound: 24

Extent Group 1 / Time Frame 1

CC ID: 464660
Time Frame Type: Range
Start: 1985
End: 2000

Access Information

Security Class: Unclassified
Data Access Procedure:

For more information on the ELMR data base, or to request publications, please contact David Moe Nelson, phone (301) 713-3028, email;

Data Access Constraints:


Data Use Constraints:


Distribution Information

Distribution 1

CC ID: 464662
Download URL:

Other Documents

File Type (Deprecated): tabular digital data (fixed width, tab delimited, or CSV)
Distribution Format: CSV - Comma Separated Values (Text)



CC ID: 464652
URL Type:
Online Resource


CC ID: 464653
URL Type:
Online Resource

Activity Log

Activity Log 1

CC ID: 464702
Activity Date/Time: 2014-05-07

Date that the source FGDC record was last modified.

Activity Log 2

CC ID: 464701
Activity Date/Time: 2017-04-05

Converted from FGDC Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata (version FGDC-STD-001-1998) using '' script. Contact Tyler Christensen (NOS) for details.

Activity Log 3

CC ID: 584360
Activity Date/Time: 2017-09-13

Partial upload of Spatial Info section only.

Data Quality


The quality and quantity of available data vary by species, life stage, and estuary. In general, data quality is best for well documented, commercially- and recreationally-harvested species. Data quality regarding salinity zone boundaries may be affected by factors such as variations in freshwater inflow, wind, and tides. The qualitative nature of distributional data precludes statistical comparisons of species abundances. Data reliability was classified using the following categories:(1) Highly certain: considerable sampling data available. Distribution, behavior, and preferred habitats well documented within an estuary. (2) Moderately certain: some sampling data available for an estuary. Distribution, preferred habitat, and behavior well documented in similar estuaries. (3) Reasonable inference: little or no sampling data available. Information on distributions, ecology, and preferred habitats documented in similar estuaries. Estimates of the data reliability for each species and estuary are presented in Data Reliability tables within each ELMR regional report (copies available upon request).

Completeness Report:

The following criteria, together with data availability, were used to select species for inclusion in each regional ELMR database:(1) Commercial value: determined by review of catch data and value statistics from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and state agencies. (2) Recreational value: determined by relative importance in recreational fisheries that may or may not be commercially exploited. Recreational species were determined by consulting regional experts and NMFS reports. (3) Indicator of environmental stress: determined from the literature, discussions with fisheries experts, and from monitoring programs such as NOAA's National Status and Trends Program. (4) Ecological value: based on several attributes including trophic level, relative abundance, and importance as a key predator or prey species.

Conceptual Consistency:

The abundance of a species life stage was considered relative to that of the same life stage of other "similar species." Similar species were considered to be those having similar life modes and gear susceptibilities. The species within each guild were used to assess each others' relative abundance. These guilds are:- Sessile Invertebrates- Shrimps and Squids- Large Crustaceans- Shallow Water Fishes- Pelagic Fishes- Demersal Fishes. The quality of relative abundance information varied between estuaries as well as species and life stage. For more detailed information on how these rankings were determined refer to the National Report (NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS CCMA 144) for methodology.


Process Steps

Process Step 1

CC ID: 464650

Estuaries for each region were selected from the National Estuarine Inventory (NEI) Data Atlas-Volume I, with a total of 122 estuaries within the five study regions included in the ELMR project. Data on the spatial and temporal distributions of species were compiled for five salinity zones. Species were selected based on the commercial value, recreational value, indicator of environmental stress, and ecological value.A data sheet was developed for each species in each estuary to facilitate the review and presentation of the information. Data compiled for each species/life stage included: (1) the salinity zone it occupies, (2) its monthly distribution in those zones, and (3) its relative abundance in those zones. The integrated quantitative and qualitative relative abundance estimates were then verified through an extensive review process utilizing expert knowledge and field experiences or fisheries scientists, managers, and field biologists. Process Date Range is 1985 - 2000

Process Date/Time: 2000-01-01 00:00:00

Child Items

Rubric scores updated every 15m

Rubric Score Type Title
Entity Dataset parameters for the ELMR database

Catalog Details

Catalog Item ID: 39291
GUID: gov.noaa.nmfs.inport:39291
Metadata Record Created By: Tyler Christensen
Metadata Record Created: 2017-04-05 12:51+0000
Metadata Record Last Modified By: SysAdmin InPortAdmin
Metadata Record Last Modified: 2023-10-17 16:12+0000
Metadata Record Published: 2017-09-13
Owner Org: NCCOS
Metadata Publication Status: Published Externally
Do Not Publish?: N
Metadata Last Review Date: 2017-09-13
Metadata Review Frequency: 1 Year
Metadata Next Review Date: 2018-09-13