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Marine Biomes: Understanding the Different Types of Ocean Ecosystems

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 17, 2023

The ocean is a vast and dynamic ecosystem that covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. It is home to a wide range of organisms, from tiny plankton to massive whales. But the ocean is not just one large, uniform body of water. Instead, it is composed of different types of marine biomes, each with its own unique characteristics and inhabitants. In this article, we will explore the various marine biomes, their importance to the planet, and what we can do to protect them.

Coastal Biomes

Coastal biomes are the areas where land and ocean meet. They are some of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Coastal biomes are characterised by a mix of saltwater and freshwater, creating a unique environment that supports a wide range of life. Examples of coastal biomes include estuaries, salt marshes, and mangrove forests.

Estuaries are semi-enclosed bodies of water where freshwater from rivers mixes with saltwater from the ocean. They are vital breeding and nursery grounds for many marine species, including fish and shellfish. Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by the tides. They provide important habitat for many bird species and are also important for carbon storage. Mangrove forests are found in tropical and subtropical regions and are characterised by salt-tolerant trees and shrubs that grow in shallow coastal waters. They are important for protecting coastlines from storm surges and erosion.

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse and complex marine ecosystems on the planet. They are formed by colonies of tiny coral polyps that secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard, protective skeleton. Coral reefs are home to over 25% of all marine species and are also important for coastal protection and tourism.

However, coral reefs are under threat from a range of human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are causing mass coral bleaching events, where corals expel the algae that live inside them and turn white. Without these algae, the corals eventually die. It is estimated that up to 90% of the world’s coral reefs could be lost by 2050 if we do not take action to protect them.

Open Ocean

The open ocean is the largest marine biome and covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. It is characterised by deep, dark waters and a lack of physical features such as coastlines and islands. The open ocean is home to a wide range of organisms, including plankton, fish, sea turtles, and whales.

The open ocean is important for regulating the Earth’s climate and carbon cycle. It absorbs a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, the open ocean is also under threat from human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change.

Polar Seas

The polar seas are the areas around the North and South poles. They are characterised by extreme cold, ice, and low levels of sunlight. Despite these harsh conditions, the polar seas are home to a range of unique and fascinating organisms, including polar bears, penguins, and krill.

The polar seas play an important role in regulating the Earth’s climate and ocean currents. They also support important fisheries, such as those for Antarctic krill, which is used as a food source for fish and other marine animals.

However, the polar seas are under threat from climate change, which is causing melting sea ice and rising ocean temperatures. This is having a range of impacts on the polar ecosystems, including changes in the distribution of species, loss of habitat, and altered food webs.

Deep Sea Biomes

The deep sea is the largest and least explored biome on the planet. It is characterised by extreme darkness, high pressure, and low temperatures. Despite these harsh conditions, the deep sea is home to a surprising amount of life, including many species that are found nowhere else on Earth.

The deep sea plays an important role in regulating the Earth’s climate and carbon cycle. It is also a potential source of new medicines and other valuable resources. However, the deep sea is under threat from human activities such as deep-sea mining and oil exploration.

Protecting Marine Biomes

Marine biomes are incredibly important to the planet and to human societies. They support a wide range of biodiversity, regulate the Earth’s climate and carbon cycle, and provide food, medicine, and other valuable resources. However, they are also under threat from a range of human activities, including overfishing, pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction.

To protect marine biomes, we need to take action on multiple fronts. This includes reducing our carbon emissions, protecting coastal habitats such as mangrove forests and salt marshes, regulating fishing practices to prevent overfishing and bycatch, reducing plastic pollution and other types of marine litter, and establishing protected areas to safeguard important marine habitats and species.

Learning about Marine Biomes Through Volunteer Work with GVI

Volunteering with GVI can provide individuals with the opportunity to learn about marine biomes while contributing to conservation efforts. GVI offers marine conservation programs in locations such as the Seychelles, Fiji, and Thailand, where volunteers can participate in activities such as coral reef monitoring, sea turtle conservation, and beach cleanups. Through these programs, volunteers can learn about the different marine biomes and the importance of protecting them, as well as gaining hands-on experience in marine conservation. This can be a great way to not only contribute to conservation efforts but also to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the marine world.

Marine biomes are incredibly diverse and complex ecosystems that play a vital role in supporting life on Earth. From the productive estuaries and salt marshes of the coast to the deep, dark depths of the ocean floor, each marine biome has its own unique characteristics and inhabitants. However, these important ecosystems are under threat from human activities, and we must take action to protect them. By working together to reduce our impact on the ocean and establish protected areas, we can ensure that marine biomes continue to thrive for generations to come.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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