Marine Ecosystem Characteristics | Types of Marine Ecosystem

Learn here characteristics and different types of marine ecosystem

The marine ecosystem covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. The marine ecosystem provides a wide range of habitat for flora and fauna of the marine aquatic system that ranges from seashores to the deep seabed. It is a home for millions of species.

marine ecosystem characteristics and types

The marine ecosystem plays an important role in the protection of the environment. For example – like land plants, the water plants also help in minimizing the carbon level in the atmosphere. Aquatic plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and it releases oxygen back in the atmosphere.

The marine ecosystem is a wonderful combination of biotic and abiotic components supporting each other for survival. It is an exciting part of the ecology that will grab your attention once you start knowing it. You can go through this article to get a close-up experience of the marine ecosystem. 

Marine Ecosystem Definition

Marine means saltwater bodies i.e., oceans and seas of the Earth’s surface. The interaction between the living (plants and animals) and non-living things within the marine culture are commonly known as the marine ecosystem.

The marine ecosystem is one of the largest ecosystem of our planet. In the marine ecosystem, each living organism is dependent on each and creates a beautiful food chain of marine culture. All the biotic and abiotic components play an important role in maintaining proper balance in the ecosystem.

Characteristics of Marine Ecosystem


The temperature of the marine ecosystem

Temperature is one of the important characteristics of an ecosystem. The average temperature of oceanic water is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this temperature may vary (maybe colder or warmer) depending on its location on the Earth’s surface.

The marine ecosystem near the equator experience comparative warm water temperature, whereas the one which is close to the poles, have cold water temperature. The temperature of the marine ecosystem plays an essential role in the lives of living creatures underwater.

Water in the marine ecosystem

We know the earth as a blue planet. Well, the most credit goes to the water bodies present on the Earth’s surface. Almost ¾ part of Earth’s surface is occupied by water, out of which approximately 90% is covered by marine water bodies like seas and oceans.

We call it marine water due to its saline nature i.e., the saltiness of the water. Marine water contains approximately 96.5% pure water, and the rest 3.5% are the dissolved compounds such as chlorine, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, potassium, etc.

However, the salinity of the marine ecosystem not only depends on these dissolved compounds but on other factors as well, like the latitude, erosion, atmospheric activity, depth, volcanic activity, biological activity, etc.

Importance of sunlight

Sunlight has always been an important factor for an ecosystem. All the living creatures depend on sunlight directly or indirectly to fulfill their need for the food.

The plants of the marine ecosystem are known as the primary producer as they make food using the sunlight. The food chain starts from these primary producers and goes successful on top levels predators. Sunlight acts as a primary component to maintain proper balance in the marine ecosystem food chain.

More importantly, the availability of sunlight very much depends on the depth of the marine water. There is the aphotic zone (with a water depth up to 100 meters) in the marine ecosystem where sunlight can reach to help the photosynthesis process. On the other hand, the aphotic zone (with a water depth more than 100 meters) where sunlight cannot reach, and thus photosynthesis process gets affected.    

Biodiversity in the marine ecosystem

The marine ecosystem supports great biodiversity as compared to other ecosystems of the planet. The species of the marine ecosystem have adapted the aquatic culture for its survival. For example – the fishes have gills that help them to breathe in water. 

Many plant and animal species live together in the marine ecosystem. Some of the common aquatic species are-

  1. Plants like kelp, phytoplankton, seaweeds, seagrasses, mangroves, etc.
  2. Fishes like sharks, tuna, grouper, eels, seahorse, gars, swordfish, clownfish, stingray, flatfish, rockfish, sunfish mola, etc.
  3. Mammals like seals, dolphins, blue whales, walruses, manatees, otters, etc.
  4. Mollusks like cuttlefish, conch, oysters, snails, octopus, clams, squids, slugs, etc. and many more species.

Types of Marine Ecosystem

Marine ecosystems types include open deep sea, salt water wet-land, coral reefs, estuary, mangroves, sandy beach, kelp forest, polar marine and rocky marine ecosystem.


Open Marine Ecosystem

Whenever you think of the marine ecosystem, the first picture that comes to your mind is the open water surface. This open water surface is known as the marine ecosystem; This is the upper layer of the ocean where sun rays reach quite easily.

The open marine ecosystem extends up to 150 meters from the ocean surface. The open marine ecosystem provides habitat to various sea creatures such as plankton, algae, whales, jellyfish, etc.

Deep-Sea Marine Ecosystem

The ecosystem deep inside the oceans at its floor is known as the deep sea marine ecosystem. Deep-sea marine ecosystem inhabiting various animal species in the seabed up to 1000 meters depth underwater.

Sunlight is one of the big challenges to penetrate at the seafloor; however, the species have adapted the marine environment of this region. A huge range of animal species is found in deep-sea marine ecosystems such as squids, fishes, elephant seals, sperm whales, crabs, worms, some sharks, etc. 

Coral Reef Marine Ecosystem

Coral reefs are special type of marine ecosystem found in the seafloor. This ecosystem is mostly found in tropical waters and is quite a productive ecosystem found on the Earth. The coral reefs are the skeleton made up of limestone i.e., calcium carbonate.  

Also Read about – Importance of coral reefs on our Earth

The coral reef ecosystem provides food and shelter to almost ¼ of marine water species. Coral reefs attract exotic color fishes like sponges, snails, seahorses, sometimes large animals like sharks & dolphins, etc.

Saltwater Wetland Marine Ecosystem

The coastal areas of oceans and seas are known as the saltwater wetland ecosystem. The saltwater wetland marine ecosystem is again classified into two types – saltwater swamps and salt marshes.

Saltwater swamps are regions dominated with trees, whereas salt marshes are covered with grasses. Commonly found water species of saltwater wetland ecosystem are amphibians, reptiles, some migratory birds, shellfishes, few fishes, etc.

Estuary Marine Ecosystem

The area around the river mouth where it merges with marine water is usually termed as an estuary marine ecosystem. The salinity in this ecosystem varies with the tides. The estuary ecosystem does not support a variety of species.  

Mostly the species of the neighbouring ecosystem are found in the Estuary marine ecosystem. This ecosystem also plays an essential role in nurseries for various kinds of fishes, shrimps, etc. 

Mangrove Marine Ecosystem

In some tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions, a special type of saltwater swamp is found, which is known as mangroves. Mangrove swamps are home for special types of trees that can survive in the saline ecosystem.

These mangroves are characterized by a special kind of roots to absorb oxygen to survive. The roots are extended above the water surface. Mangrove ecosystem provides shelter to various species such as shrimps, jellyfish, birds, sponges, crabs, fish, crocodiles, etc.

These are the commonly known types of marine ecosystems. Apart from these, some other kinds of marine ecosystems are –

Also check and read about – All different types of ecosystems on the planet Earth

Sandy Beach Ecosystem

Sandy’s ecosystem is quite poor in terms of biodiversity as compared to different marine ecosystems. The environment in the sandy beach ecosystem varies a lot. However, the species that are found in the sandy beach ecosystem are very much adapted to a constantly variable environment.


The species that found a home in the sandy beach ecosystem mostly includes sea turtle, sea lion, seal, algae, plankton, invertebrates like snails, crabs, clams, etc. birds like plovers, willets, gulls, terns, ruddy turnstone, curlews, etc.

Kelp Forest Marine Ecosystem

The kelp forest ecosystem is found in comparative cooler water. The average temperature of this ecosystem ranges from 42-72 degrees Fahrenheit with depth up to 60-90 feet.

Kelp forest ecosystem supports various animal species such as seabirds, shorebirds, invertebrates (like crabs, sea stars, snails, etc.), fishes, mammals (like sea lions, seals, whales, sea otter, etc.

Polar Marine Ecosystem

As the climate of Polar Regions is extremely cold; thus, the temperature of this type of marine ecosystem is also too cold. The species found in the polar marine ecosystem have adapted to the adverse climatic conditions of this region.

The most common species found in the polar marine ecosystem includes planktons, algae, birds like penguins, polar bears, seals, walruses, etc.

Rocky Marine Ecosystem

The rock shores, rock cliffs, boulders, tide pools, etc. combine to make rocky marine ecosystems. The biodiversity of rocky marine ecosystem generally have species like lichens, birds, invertebrate (lobsters, urchins, barnacles, sea stars, sea squirts, seal, etc.

The marine ecosystem is a unique ecosystem that supports various plant and animal lives. All these species set an excellent example of a great food chain as compared to other ecosystems.  

The sad part is that we are spoiling such an amazing ecosystem by polluting it through disposing of unwanted wastes. We are disposing of our wastes into the oceans and seas that are affecting the marine ecology big time.

We need to take necessary measures and even need to implement some strict rules and regulations to control marine pollution. These initiatives will work to control marine pollution helping the marine ecosystem and biodiversity.  


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