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Introduction to Marine Ecosystems
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  1. Introduction to Marine Ecosystems

  2. Ocean Ecosystem • An ecosystem is a level of organization that includes living things and their environment • Living things cannot exist without their environment • Most of our planet is covered by the ocean or marine ecosystem

  3. Structure and Function of an Ecosystem What the ecosystem is made up of and how it works are linked and influence each other… STRUCTURE Amount of non living materials How living conditions vary with time and space Characteristics of living things FUNCTION Interactions between living things Cycling

  4. LAND vs OCEAN • Ocean is wetter than land • Materials can be dissolved in ocean water • Gametes can be dispersed more easily • Harder for smaller things to move through water • Ocean is more vast than land • Harder to find mates and food • Ocean is more supportive than land • Body structure will be different than land animals • Living in aquatic environment will shape biology and adaptations of marine life

  5. ABIOTIC and BIOTIC FX Physical or non-living parts of the environment that influence living things are called abiotic factors examples: Living factors which influence living things are called biotic factors examples:

  6. Abiotic Factors in the Ocean • Inorganic nutrients like: C,N,H,P,S,Fe,Si • Motion in the ocean: upwelling, currents, tides • Dissolved materials like gases and salts • Climate: temperature, light, pressure • Variations in time and space

  7. Inorganic Nutrients • Most of the ocean is nutrient poor • Only 10 percent of the surface area of the global ocean supports half the world’s fisheries • Nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and silica are like fertilizer for ocean plants

  8. Source of nutrients • Runoff from land, animal feces and decomposition • all this material sinks out of reach Surface nutrients get used up (by plants to make plant tissue) they become a limiting factor for the growth of new plants which are only found in surface waters Nutrients are returned to surface waters by a special type of current called 'upwelling'

  9. Other Ways Nutrients are Replaced • Winter storms, after the thermocline has disappeared • Deep water currents can be deflected by underwater island chains

  10. Motion-Upwelling • Upwelling is a vertical current, bringing nutrient rich water from the bottom to the surface. • Upwelling areas support a lot of life • Occur off the west coasts of continents or in the middle of the equatorial parts of oceans. • Upwelling is often seasonal


  12. Why Upwelling Happens • Earth's rotation and strong seasonal winds push surface water away from coasts • Deep water rises on the edges of continents to replace it.


  14. Motion-Tides • Alternating rise and fall of sea level • Produced by gravitational attraction to moon and sun as well as the rotation of the Earth • Tides produce strong currents up to 5 m/s •

  15. Motion-Tides • Area on the beach exposed between high and low tide is intertidal zone • Organisms must deal with breaking waves, exposure above water, and daily variations in water temperature and salinity • Adaptations, such as firm attachment to rocks and shells to hold in moisture, to deal with these conditions.


  17. Marine Life and Tides • Some marine life time their feeding and reproduction to the high or low tide cycle • Horseshoe crabs come ashore to mate on the night of a high tide in May • Eggs hatch 2 wks later on a high tide and are washed into the ocean

  18. Motion-Currents

  19. Motion-Currents • Ocean currents move heat around the globe and affect local climate • Driven by atmospheric winds and Earth’s rotation • Found in upper 400m and speeds around 1 m/s • Pollution, marine life and food can be stuck in currents and moved around the globe

  20. Dissolved Materials • Seawater is fresh water plus dissolved materials like salts, minerals and gases • Amount of material dissolved depends on temperature of water

  21. Dissolved Gases • Oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen • Dissolve into the ocean from the atmosphere through wave action also released at the surface back into atmosphere • Dissolve better in cold water • Animal life and plant life can change the chemistry of ocean gases

  22. Dissolved Gases • Plants photosynthesize, animals respire, bacteria decompose • Plants use CO2 and produce O2 • Animals use O2 and produce CO2 • Decomposition uses O2 and produces CO2

  23. Around 500 m water runs out of oxygen • Bacteria and other animals are using it during decomposition and respiration • No photosynthesis at this depth • Animals in this region and lower have large gills, modified hemoglobin or are inactive

  24. Gas Exchange and Carbon Cycle • Oceans absorb and store large amounts of CO2 • Contain about 50 X the amount found in the atmosphere • biological pump -some of the absorbed CO2 is used in the food web by phytoplankton, or used to make shells and then consumed and pooped out • gas is trapped in the deep ocean (sequestered) until brought to surface by currents

  25. Ocean Acidification • CO2 is changed to carbonic acid as it dissolves in seawater • More CO2 dissolving, more acidic ocean is becoming • 30% increase in acidity since IR • Marine life that produce calcium carbonate shells are negatively impacted by increasing acidity (coral, clams, mussels, oysters, some algae)

  26. The photos below show what happens to a pteropod’s shell when placed in sea water with pH and carbonate levels projected for the year 2100. The shell slowly dissolves after 45 days.  Photo credit: Used with permission, National Geographic Images

  27. Dissolved Salts • Dissolved salts/ minerals come from land and underwater volcanic activity • Average salinity is 35 parts per thousand • Salts change water density and differences in density contribute to the creation of water masses and deep ocean circulation • Thermohaline circulation, also called the Global Ocean Conveyor, moves water between the deep and surface ocean worldwide

  28. Figure 1: Relative proportions of dissolved salts in seawater. (Source:

  29. Thermohaline circulation, also called the Global Ocean Conveyor, moves water between the deep and surface ocean worldwide.Click on image for full sizeImage courtesy Argonne National Laboratory • Image courtesy Argonne National Laboratory

  30. Marine vertebrates control internal salt and water concentration by osmoregulation

  31. Climate: temperature, light, pressure • Ocean conditions vary with depth and with latitude



  34. Animal Adaptations and Pressure • Ocean life has adapted to deep ocean and 1000x our pressure with lightweight skeletons, little musculature, and reduced metabolic, growth and reproductive rates. • Diving mammals have rib cages that collapse and expand in result to changing pressure

  35. Yelloweye rockfish with barotrauma. Shows esophagus protruding from mouth and bulging eyes (exophthalmia). (Credit: Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

  36. Water Depth vs Light • Photosynthetic organisms use light to make sugars. • Sunlit area (top 100 meters) contains 90% of marine life • Colors of penetrate thru water differently • Red light filters out first and blue light goes the furthest • Red animals are essentially invisible in deep waters


  38. Animal Adaptations and Temperature • Average ocean temp is 3  C • Colder temps reduce the metabolic rate • In very cold waters fish have a special protein like antifreeze to keep tissues from freezing • Lighter colored animals stay cooler than darker colored animals and are found in warmer waters • Some marine life have thick layers of fat to insulate their bodies

  39. Variations in Time and Space • Characteristics of ocean water change with depth and season • Many marine organisms migrate daily or seasonally because of these variations

  40. Biotic Factors in the Ocean • Characteristics of living things • Diversity: How many and what types of things live there • Interactions between living things: competition, predation, symbiosis

  41. Characteristics of Life • Made of cells • Getting energy • Growth and development • Reproducing • Respond to environment • Maintaining homeostasis


  43. Diversity of Living Things • Systematics- Groups organisms for classification and study • Describes the evolutionary relationships between orgs • Earliest life forms evolved in the ocean