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Northeast Lake and Pond Classification System

The Northeast region is known for its wealth of lakes and ponds — more than 30,000 bodies of water that store freshwater, sustain a diversity of fish, birds, invertebrates, and aquatic plants, and support sport fisheries and recreational activities — and now there is a common way to classify them. Developed by experts from The Nature Conservancy, ten states, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the classification scheme is based upon four key variables that are used to organize aquatic natural communities, and can be mapped consistently across the region and United States.

Go to the Product(s)

The following products all live on The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Gateway page:


View a WebEx presentation on the Lakes and Ponds Classification led by The Nature Conservancy's Mark Anderson and Arlene Olivero

Technical description

Using newly available data and a team of 13 aquatic biologists from state and federal agencies, The Nature Conservancy has developed the first comprehensive map of waterbody types in the region.  The products include an interactive story map, report, and dataset containing detailed information on each lake and pond in the region.


Every waterbody in the region is mapped and classified based on four attributes:
  1. Depth: the degree to which light penetrates and whether there is a permanent dark zone.
  2. Temperature:  the coldest summer temperature
  3. Alkalinity: the degree to which the lake is buffered from acidification (similar to pH).
  4. Trophic Status: the productivity or “nourishment” of the lake. Hypereutrophic lakes have too much enrichment resulting in algal blooms and oxygen loss.  Oligotrophic lakes are cold and clear.

This project was funded by the USFWS’s North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative to facilitate multi state conservation planning. It integrates state-based classifications into a single system that provides context for understanding the extent, distribution, threats, and conservation status of lakes and ponds in the region.

Case Studies and News Stories

What lies beneath lakes and ponds - North Atlantic LCC News

Project Contact(s):

, Director of Conservation Science at The Nature Conservancy

LCC Staff Contact(s):

, Science Coordinator

Northeast Lake and Pond Classification System
Resource Type: Ecosystems, Fish
Conservation Targets: Freshwater aquatic
Conservation Framework: Biological Planning
Conservation Action: Site/area protection, Site/area management, Species management, Species recovery