A Guide to Ocean Habitats

Since the world’s oceans support a great range of biodiversity and ecosystems as well as covering around 71 per cent of the earth’s surface, there must be various environments within this huge body of water to suit the needs of marine and plant life within it. There are indeed many ocean habitats which oceanographers have discovered. Some of them have been thoroughly explored and researched, while others have less information due to their hard to reach and far from land locations. These habitats vary in their terrain and oceanographic patterns, as well as the amount and type of marine life that live in or pass through them. This article serves as an insightful guide to the many ocean habitats.

• Coral reefs

These very beautiful and flourishing habitats of the ocean are well documented and regarded to be the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems. They are characterized by being warm, clear and shallow areas of the ocean with thousands of species of thriving marine life. As they are warm areas of the ocean, they are located where there is a lot of sunshine. The warm temperatures of these waters are needed for the coral animals that rely on the chemical reactions that take place to remove calcium from the water, which forms the hard coral rock. The sunlight is also necessary for photosynthesis to take place for all the plant life.

• Open Ocean

The open ocean is also known as the Pelagic Zone. These habitats of the ocean are often far from land, are comprised of the upper layers of the open sea and encompass a large area of the ocean except for near shore areas or the sea floor. It is estimated that around 10 per cent of all marine life live in this vast ocean habitat, and most of them include some of the largest and fastest of swimmers, like dolphins and marlin, among others.

• Mid-ocean ridges

These areas consist of underwater mountain ranges which usually have valleys that have been formed from tectonic plates. Most of this oceanic habitat is located in the abyssal plains or what is known as the deep sea.

• Ice oceans

These are located at the poles where ice and ocean meet. Due to the extreme cold temperatures of these locations, there is less biodiversity; however, there are abundant populations of certain species suited to this oceanic habitat.

• Abyssal plains

These habitats are underwater plains on the ocean floor and are far away from any land, which makes reaching the plain difficult for explorers and researchers. They are characterized by being flat and level ground, often very pristine as humans have had less of an impact on such areas and account from among the least explored areas on earth.

• Seamounts

These are areas where sea mountains lay. It is estimated that throughout all the oceans there are over 100,000 undersea mountains. Such areas have a lot of importance to many marine species; they are a main target ground for commercial fishing and of ecological importance.  

• Vents and seeps

Vents are areas of hot water located on the ocean floor and where the water goes through hot volcanic rocks; and seeps are areas where liquids containing hydrogen sulfide and methane leak up from the ocean floor. They appear on submarine volcanoes and where new oceanic crust is being formed. Biological communities do in fact live in such a habitat, and their energy is reliant upon chemosynthesis made from sulfur-fixing bacteria.

• Continental shelves

These are located in deeper ocean basins; they contain the most of known marine biodiversity.

• Continental margins

These ocean habitats frame continents and stretch out far to the abyssal plains areas. Only recently, they have been discovered as intricate and diverse habitats.

• Near shore

As the name suggests these are areas where land and sea intersect, and are near the shores of beaches. These ocean environments often contain various reefs and sea grass.  Some marine life lives in these areas, but it depends on wave activity and the plant life available.

Oceanographers have divided the oceans into regions or environments depending upon the certain characteristics of certain areas. This article was a guide to the many different ocean habitats within this large body of water.