This article needs additional citations for verification . (January 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The photic zone, euphotic zone, epipelagic zone or sunlight (or sunlit) zone is the uppermost layer of the ocean that receives sunlight, enabling it to perform photosynthesis. It undergoes a series of physical, chemical, and biological processes that supply nutrients into the upper water column. The photic zone is home to the majority of marine life, due to its location.
In the photic zone, the photosynthesis rate exceeds the respiration rate. This is due to the abundant solar energy which is used as a food source for primary producers such as phytoplankton. These phytoplankton grow extremely quickly because of sunlight's heavy influence, enabling it to be produced at a fast rate. In fact, ninety five percent of photosynthesis in the ocean occurs in the photic zone. Therefore, if we go deeper, beyond the photic zone, such as into the compensation point, there is little to no phytoplankton, because of insufficient sunlight.The zone which extends from the base of the euphotic zone to about 200 metres is sometimes called the disphotic zone.
Ninety percent of marine life lives in the photic zone, which is approximately two hundred meters deep. This includes phytoplankton (plants), including dinoflagellates, diatoms, cyanobacteria, coccolithophorids, and cryptomonads. It also includes zooplankton, the consumers in the photic zone. There are carnivorous meat eaters and herbivorous plant eaters. Next, copepods are the small crustaceans distributed everywhere in the photic zone, and are actually the biggest group of animals on the planet. Finally, there are nekton (animals that can propel themselves, like fish, squids, and crabs), which are the largest and the most obvious animals in the photic zone, but their quantity is the smallest among all the groups.
The depth of the photic zone depends on the transparency of the water. If the water is very clear, the photic zone can become very deep. If it is very murky, it can be only fifty feet (fifteen meters) deep.
The depth is, roughly, where radiation is degraded down to 1% of its surface strength.Accordingly, its thickness depends on the extent of light attenuation in the water column. As incoming light at the surface can vary widely, this says little about the net growth of phytoplankton. Typical euphotic depths vary from only a few centimetres in highly turbid eutrophic lakes, to around 200 meters in the open ocean. It also varies with seasonal changes in turbidity, which can be strongly driven by phytoplankton concentrations, such that the depth of the photic zone often decreases as primary production increases. Moreover, the respiration rate is actually greater than the photosynthesis rate. The reason why phytoplankton production is so important is because it plays a prominent role when interwoven with other food webs.
Due to biological uptake, the photic zone has relatively low levels of nutrient concentrations. As a result, phytoplankton don't receive enough nutrients when there is high water-column stability.The spatial distribution of organisms can be controlled by a number of factors. Physical factors include: temperature, hydrostatic pressure, turbulent mixing such as the upward turbulent flux of inorganic nitrogen across the nutricline. Chemical factors include oxygen and trace elements. Biological factors include grazing and migrations. Upwelling carries nutrients from the deep waters into the photic zone, strengthening phytoplankton growth. The remixing and upwelling eventually bring nutrient-rich wastes back into the photic zone. The Ekman transport additionally brings more nutrients to the photic zone. Nutrient pulse frequency affects the phytoplankton competition. Photosynthesis produces more of it. Being the first link in the food chain, what happens to phytoplankton creates a rippling effect for other species. Besides phytoplankton, many other animals also live in this zone and utilize these nutrients. The majority of ocean life occurs in the photic zone, the smallest ocean zone by water volume. The photic zone, although small, has a large impact on those who reside in it.
Plankton are the diverse collection of organisms that live in large bodies of water and are unable to swim against a current. The individual organisms constituting plankton are called plankters. They provide a crucial source of food to many small and large aquatic organisms, such as bivalves, fish and whales.
Zooplankton are heterotrophic plankton. Plankton are organisms drifting in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The word zooplankton is derived from the Greek zoon (ζῴον), meaning "animal", and planktos (πλαγκτός), meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Individual zooplankton are usually microscopic, but some are larger and visible to the naked eye.
Limnology, is the study of inland aquatic ecosystems. The study of limnology includes aspects of the biological, chemical, physical, and geological characteristics and functions of inland waters. This includes the study of lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, springs, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. A more recent sub-discipline of limnology, termed landscape limnology, studies, manages, and seeks to conserve these ecosystems using a landscape perspective, by explicitly examining connections between an aquatic ecosystem and its watershed. Recently, the need to understand global inland waters as part of the Earth System created a sub-discipline called global limnology. This approach considers processes in inland waters on a global scale, like the role of inland aquatic ecosystems in global biogeochemical cycles.
In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through chemosynthesis, which uses the oxidation or reduction of inorganic chemical compounds as its source of energy. Almost all life on Earth relies directly or indirectly on primary production. The organisms responsible for primary production are known as primary producers or autotrophs, and form the base of the food chain. In terrestrial ecoregions, these are mainly plants, while in aquatic ecoregions algae predominate in this role. Ecologists distinguish primary production as either net or gross, the former accounting for losses to processes such as cellular respiration, the latter not.
The mesopelagiczone, also known as the middle pelagic or twilight zone, is the part of the pelagic zone that lies between the photic epipelagic and the aphotic bathypelagic zones. It is defined by light, and begins at the depth where only 1% of incident light reaches and ends where there is no light; the depths of this zone are between approximately 200 to 1000 meters below the ocean surface. It hosts a diverse biological community that includes bristlemouths, blobfish, bioluminescent jellyfish, giant squid, and a myriad of other unique organisms adapted to live in a low-light environment. It has long captivated the imagination of scientists, artists and writers; deep sea creatures are prominent in popular culture, particularly as horror movie villains.
The Benguela Current is the broad, northward flowing ocean current that forms the eastern portion of the South Atlantic Ocean gyre. The current extends from roughly Cape Point in the south, to the position of the Angola-Benguela front in the north, at around 16°S. The current is driven by the prevailing south easterly trade winds. Inshore of the Benguela Current proper, the south easterly winds drive coastal upwelling, forming the Benguela Upwelling System. The cold, nutrient rich waters that upwell from around 200–300 m depth in turn fuel high rates of phytoplankton growth, and sustain the productive Benguela ecosystem.
The Canary Current is a wind-driven surface current that is part of the North Atlantic Gyre. This eastern boundary current branches south from the North Atlantic Current and flows southwest about as far as Senegal where it turns west and later joins the Atlantic North Equatorial Current. The current is named after the Canary Islands. The archipelago partially blocks the flow of the Canary Current.
The spring bloom is a strong increase in phytoplankton abundance that typically occurs in the early spring and lasts until late spring or early summer. This seasonal event is characteristic of temperate North Atlantic, sub-polar, and coastal waters. Phytoplankton blooms occur when growth exceeds losses, however there is no universally accepted definition of the magnitude of change or the threshold of abundance that constitutes a bloom. The magnitude, spatial extent and duration of a bloom depends on a variety of abiotic and biotic factors. Abiotic factors include light availability, nutrients, temperature, and physical processes that influence light availability, and biotic factors include grazing, viral lysis, and phytoplankton physiology. The factors that lead to bloom initiation are still actively debated.
A pycnocline is the cline or layer where the density gradient is greatest within a body of water. An ocean current is generated by the forces such as breaking waves, temperature and salinity differences, wind, Coriolis effect, and tides caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun. In addition, the physical properties in a pycnocline driven by density gradients also affect the flows and vertical profiles in the ocean. These changes can be connected to the transport of heat, salt, and nutrients through the ocean, and the pycnocline diffusion controls upwelling.
The bathyal zone or bathypelagic – from Greek βαθύς (bathýs), deep – is the part of the pelagic zone that extends from a depth of 1,000 to 4,000 m below the ocean surface. It lies between the mesopelagic above, and the abyssopelagic below. The average temperature hovers at about 4 °C (39 °F). Although larger by volume than the photic zone, the bathyal zone is less densely populated. Sunlight does not reach this zone, meaning primary production, if any, is almost nonexistent. There are no known plants because of the lack of sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. It is known as the midnight zone because of this feature.
Pelagic fish live in the pelagic zone of ocean or lake waters – being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore – in contrast with demersal fish that do live on or near the bottom, and reef fish that are associated with coral reefs.
In biological oceanography, 'Critical Depth' is defined as a hypothesized surface mixing depth at which phytoplankton growth is precisely matched by losses of phytoplankton biomass within this depth interval. This concept is useful for understanding the initiation of phytoplankton blooms.
The (light) compensation point is the light intensity on the light curve where the rate of photosynthesis exactly matches the rate of cellular respiration. At this point, the uptake of CO2 through photosynthetic pathways is equal to the respiratory release of carbon dioxide, and the uptake of O2 by respiration is equal to the photosynthetic release of oxygen.
A lake ecosystem includes biotic (living) plants, animals and micro-organisms, as well as abiotic (nonliving) physical and chemical interactions.
Diel vertical migration (DVM), also known as diurnal vertical migration, is a pattern of movement used by some organisms, such as copepods, living in the ocean and in lakes. The migration occurs when organisms move up to the epipelagic zone at night and return to the mesopelagic zone of the oceans or to the hypolimnion zone of lakes during the day. The word diel comes from the Latin dies day, and means a 24-hour period. In terms of biomass, it is the greatest migration in the world. It is not restricted to any one taxon as examples are known from crustaceans (copepods), molluscs (squid), and ray-finned fishes (trout). Various stimuli are responsible for this phenomenon, the most prominent being response to changes in light intensity, though evidence suggests that biological clocks are an underlying stimulus as well. The phenomenon may arise for a number of reasons, though it is most typically to access food and avoid predators. While this mass migration is generally nocturnal, with the animals ascending from the depths at nightfall and descending at sunrise, the timing can be altered in response to the different cues and stimuli that trigger it. Some unusual events impact vertical migration: DVM is absent during the midnight sun in Arctic regions and vertical migration can occur suddenly during a solar eclipse.
A deep sea community is any community of organisms associated by a shared habitat in the deep sea. Deep sea communities remain largely unexplored, due to the technological and logistical challenges and expense involved in visiting this remote biome. Because of the unique challenges, it was long believed that little life existed in this hostile environment. Since the 19th century however, research has demonstrated that significant biodiversity exists in the deep sea.
In the deep ocean, marine snow is a continuous shower of mostly organic detritus falling from the upper layers of the water column. It is a significant means of exporting energy from the light-rich photic zone to the aphotic zone below which is referred to as the biological pump. Export production is the amount of organic matter produced in the ocean by primary production that is not recycled (remineralised) before it sinks into the aphotic zone. Because of the role of export production in the ocean's biological pump, it is typically measured in units of carbon .The term was first coined by the explorer William Beebe as he observed it from his bathysphere. As the origin of marine snow lies in activities within the productive photic zone, the prevalence of marine snow changes with seasonal fluctuations in photosynthetic activity and ocean currents. Marine snow can be an important food source for organisms living in the aphotic zone, particularly for organisms which live very deep in the water column.
The oceanic zone is typically defined as the area of the ocean lying beyond the continental shelf, but operationally is often referred to as beginning where the water depths drop to below 200 meters, seaward from the coast to the open ocean.
Marine habitats are habitats that support marine life. Marine life depends in some way on the saltwater that is in the sea. A habitat is an ecological or environmental area inhabited by one or more living species. The marine environment supports many kinds of these habitats.
In biological oceanography, new production is supported by nutrient inputs from outside the euphotic zone, especially upwelling of nutrients from deep water, but also from terrestrial and atmosphere sources. New production depends on mixing and vertical advective processes associated with the circulation.