A Guide to Ocean Habitats

There are different habitats. Each one has distinctive characteristics. The following guide gives a glimpse into each habitat in the ocean.

Kelp Forests Ecosystem

Kelp forests grow in both Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Kelp forests are only 60 – 80 feet deep.

The ecosystem is based on its physical structure. It includes three guilds of kelp and two guilds of other algae.

1. Canopy kelp is large and most often is a floating canopy that extend the ocean surface

2. Stipitate kelp does not spread over large areas. It grows in dense groupings in small areas. This is the middle layer of the forest.

3. Prostrate kelps lie along the ocean floor.

4. Benthic kelp is on the deep-ocean bottom and includes algal species.

5. Encrusting coralline algae covers a large area of bottom substrate.

Climate Change and Kelp Forests

Off the coast of southern California, the climate has changed. The cold water fish species, such as the green-spotted fish have decreased because the waters are becoming warmer. As a result, Garibaldi fish population has increased.

Sandy Bottom Habitats

The Virgin Islands have this habitat. Sandy bottoms have extremely few marine plants.

There are a few areas that have algae and called algae plains. The animals that thrive in the algae plains are juveniles of Queen Triggerfish and Spiny Lobster.

Deeper down, in the ocean, live different animals, including conches, sponges, and burrowing animals.  Mollusks, crabs and shrimp use the sand to hide from predators.

Tide Pools

Tide pools are in the intertidal zone along rocky coasts and the shore. A tide pools are holes and crevices that stay filled with water when the tide goes out.

Of all the marine animal life, only the most hardy can live in tidal pools. They have to “weather” the elements – rainfall and the tidal pool receive fresh water. Tide pools are home to sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, barnacles and anemones.

The Pacific Octopus live in intertidal tide pool locations.. It likes caves and rocky hills tide pools as it its home.

Deep Sea Coral Reefs and Shallow Water Coral Reefs

The different coral reefs have two main categories.

Scleractinia (Stony corals) is marine animals. They are similar to sea anemones but have a hard skeleton. One group of Scleractinia is Colonial corals, found in shallow tropical waters. They are the primary reef builders. The other is Solitary coral that lives in all regions of the oceans: polar, or temperate zones. They do not build reefs.

Shallow coral reefs have the best growth rate. The water is between 70-85 degrees F (21 – 29 degrees Celsius).

Wetlands Habitat

The wetlands are the link between land and water. The common names for this ecosystem are swamp, marsh, and bog. Wetlands must be filled with water, or the land is thoroughly soaked. They have trees, grasses, shrubs and moss.

The wetlands serve a variety of benefits for people and wildlife. The plantsfilter, clean and store water for the animals that live there.

Open Ocean (Pelagic zone)

The pelagic zone is the area of the ocean outside of coastal areas. It is the largest of any of the coastal and marine habitats. Phytoplankton is in this zone. Phytoplankton is the base of the food chain. Phytoplankton supports grazing zooplankton, fish and marine bacteria.

The following are pelagic characteristics

>> Pelagic Abiotic Factors. These are nonliving characteristics. This includes the physical factors: temperature, pressure (depth), light, turbidity, speed of currents, turbulence, and sound. It also includes water chemistry: salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration, pH and concentration of nutrients. The primary consideration is salinity, and water temperature is the second factor. These two factors define the density, potential for stratification, and stability of the water. These affect the planktonic processes.

>> Pelagic Biota. This is plankton that goes with the flow. In other words, it is not attached and does not have the strength fight the currents. The other is nekton, which are strong swimmers and can avoid being swept away by the currents. A further explanation of plankton organism is breaking them into holoplanktonic organisms that live their life cycle in plankton. Meroplanktonic lives only part their life cycle in plankton.

>> Epipelagic Habitat. They live in the air/water interface, or near the water’s surface. This habitat includes the photic zone (from surface to a depth of 1% light penetration. This is where photosynthesis occurs. The neuston are planktonic animals that are in the upper meter of the water column. This habitat has the largest variety of fish and invertebrates.

Deep Ocean Habitats.

The cold, dark, deep waters of the ocean are the benthic and abyssal zones. These zones cover the largest part of the ocean biome.

This is the zone beneath the pelagic zone. It is the deepest part of the ocean – 33,000 feet deep. In this zone, about 7,000 feet (2100 meters) down, are hydrothermal vents (hydrothermal vents are geysers that erupt several times a day – think of “old faithful” – are the result of seawater slipping through the plates. The magma heats the water until the pressure of the heat causes it to burst back through the plates into the ocean. The burst of water contains minerals that benefit the community. The area of the hydrothermal vents teems with marine life.

The habitats are unique and have their own distinctive ecology. This gives a brief introduction of the different ecosystems that are a part of the oceanic world.