A Guide to Ocean Habitats

Oceans and the terrain that adjoins them are every bit as unique and diverse as dry land. Just as with any land on the surface of the earth, various realms of the deep are the homes of a wide variety of creatures. Ocean habitats extend from the beaches to the deepest depths. They all have their own special characteristics, environment, and inhabitants, but they are all part of a very special and unique area of the world.

Beaches are made of small particles of stone, sand, rock that are always in the process of change. They are altered by waves and storms, and the daily wear and tear of high and low tides. Dunes, like rolling hills of sand, form along coastlines that are ever changing. Many mammals and birds make their home on beaches, such as sea lions, seals, and otters. Turtles lay their eggs there, and crabs, clams, starfish and sea urchins are common.

Coral reefs are the beautiful works of underwater art formed by calcium deposits left by animals and glued together by algae growth. Over time, these mounds of deposits continue to grow into reefs found mainly in the southern oceans.

Estuaries are areas where fresh water meets salty sea water such as in bays, and inlets. These come in several forms. Coastal plain estuaries are those that are formed when rivers enter seas. Tectonic estuaries are formed from the underwater folding of fault lines. Bar estuaries come in the form of bays or lagoons, and fiords are valleys formed from glacial activity. These areas are home to various kinds of fish, oysters and crabs.

Hydrothermal vents are caused by the separation of underwater plates that causes lava to escape. These areas of increased warmth underwater are home to a number of specific creatures, such as bacteria, worms, and some crustaceans.

Kelp forests can grow underwater up to 90 feet deep. Kelp plants with their long streamers produce large underwater forests that are home to many fish as well as some sponges. Sea grass beds also form in estuaries and in shallow areas, and may even produce flowers that bloom underwater. They are home to scallops, crabs, snails, and many kinds of fish.

Together, all of these areas make up the world’s oceans and provide habitats for thousands of varieties of plants, animals, and fish. When the environment is allowed to work normally and nature is undisturbed, each of these very different areas work together to provide for the natural habitat that live there and the humans that rely on its bounty.