Sponges, kelp and algaes 15 m below the surface, Lottin Point
Image: Kim Westerskov | DOC


A seafloor community classification has been developed to help scientists understand patterns of biodiversity on or near the seabed.

DOC commissioned NIWA to develop the New Zealand Seafloor Community Classification (SCC). It allows scientists, managers, planners and other marine professionals to classify areas that are representative of seafloor communities within New Zealand’s coastal marine area to the full extent of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

It also helps identify environments that are likely to host rare or unusual communities of marine animals and seaweed. This information can be used to inform marine conservation planning.

SCC is a significant advance on previous seafloor community classifications in New Zealand and globally as it combines a greater number of biological observations with high resolution environmental data. 

There are 75 groups within SCC. Each group contains a unique assemblage of taxa, including:

  • reef fish
  • bottom-feeding fish
  • invertebrates (eg shellfish, coral, worms)
  • macroalgae (seaweed).

The groups were created from a dataset of 630,997 records of 1,716 taxa occurring at 39,766 unique locations within New Zealand’s coastal marine area and EEZ. SCC groups are assessed for how well they represent patterns of biodiversity.

SCC has been designed so that new information can be incorporated with minimal effort, meaning it can be easily updated. It can also be tailored to the different needs of regional and local councils, universities and other interested groups.

This work is an important step in the development of a comprehensive network of marine protected areas at a national scale. It is intended to be used in tandem with the identification of key ecological areas to inform marine protection efforts.


Watch the webinars

DOC and NIWA hosted a series of webinars to explain the development of the tool and how to use it.

Webinar one: Developing the New Zealand Seafloor Community Classification

Presentation slides (PDF, 5,714K)

Webinar two: Applications of the New Zealand Seafloor Community Classification

Presentation slides (PDF, 2,709K)

Panel discussion

SCC panel discussion – questions and answers (PDF, 233K)


DOC has developed three infographics to provide more information about the SCC.

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