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17.1E: Marine Ecosystems

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    Intertidal zone


    • sandy beaches
    • rocks
    • estuaries
    • mangrove swamps
    • coral reefs
    • coastal marshes

    Some of these regions are quite productive. Many of their inhabitants have adaptations that enable them to survive periodic exposure to the air and wave action.

    Figure Ocean

    Neritic zone

    This is the relatively shallow ocean that extends to the edge of the continental shelf. Net productivity here depends on planktonic algae growing as deep as the light can reach.

    Oceanic zone

    Located over the ocean basins. Here, too, net productivity is pretty much limited to the depths that light can reach. The producers are planktonic algae that support secondary and higher consumers (e.g., fish) in the nekton.

    Despite its diversity of life, the net productivity of the open ocean is little better than that of a desert.

    Abyssal plain

    The bottom of the ocean basins: This dark, relatively unvarying region is largely inhabited by sparse populations of bottom-dwelling organisms that make up the benthos. These are consumers and decomposers who depend on the organic matter drifting down from the upper portions of the sea.

    An exception: the communities around rifts. Rifts are spreading cracks in the sea floor where continental drift is taking place. Although no light reaches here, net productivity does occur.

    Chemoautotrophic bacteria and archaea manufacture food using energy secured by oxidizing the sulfur flowing out of the cracks ("black smokers"). These microbes support a large population of animals, e.g., tube worms. Some of these worms harbor chemoautotrophic microbes within their tissues which probably supply them with the bulk of their calories.

    Contributors and Attributions

    This page titled 17.1E: Marine Ecosystems is shared under a CC BY 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by John W. Kimball via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.