Plants & Algae

Plants and algae play important roles in the ocean ecosystem. Fast growing kelp (a type of algae) makes up forest-like communities and phytoplankton produce huge amounts of oxygen consumed by humans.

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Slip into the water along a sheltered coast in nearly any part of the world and you’re likely to find yourself in an emerald field of seagrass . Like flowering plants on land, seagrasses...
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This slideshow features illustrations of some of the plants and animals that...
Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems,...

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Many species of pink coralline algae cover a reef surface in the Southern Line Islands. Often unnoticed, these pink algae crusts help to cement coral reefs together, providing extra support and habitat for animals that live on...
Sargassum fluitans , a.k.a. “Gulfweed,” forms dense clumps up to the size of...
A strain of this green seaweed, native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans,...

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Seagrasses are found in shallow salty and brackish waters in many parts of the world, from the tropics to the Arctic Circle...
How do plants respond to rising CO2 levels? To find out, plant physiologist Bert Drake at SERC exposed marsh plants near the Chesapeake Bay to CO2 levels expected in 50 and 100 years. Different...
Stare at a tide pool and you will often see a crust of pink coating the bottom. No, this is not bubblegum from some careless teenager’s shoe: it’s a stony kind of seaweed that, like other seaweeds,...
Both humans and sea lions get sick from eating fish and shellfish that have been feeding on harmful toxic algae. Studying the sick sea lions brings scientists closer to understanding and preventing...
"Fronds of giant kelp, buoyed by their gas-filled pneumatocysts, wave like pennants in the current of Monterey Bay, California," wrote George Cathcart of his image , a winning selection in the...
Hardy head silversides ( Atherinomorus lacunosus ) are abundant fish in shallow water seagrass meadows throughout the Indo-Pacific that often form shoals. They feed primarily on zooplankton and small...
Seagrasses are found in shallow salty and brackish waters in many parts of the world, from the tropics to the Arctic Circle. Seagrasses are so-named because most species have long green, grass-like...
Seagrasses don't just provide shelter for free-swimming animals, but also are a habitat for non-moving organisms, such as this sea anemone. Sessile animals attached to blades are called epibionts,...
One of the first signs of a sick coral reef is seaweed creeping across the corals, stealing their precious sunny real estate. Healthy corals, however, aren't completely hopeless: in some reefs, small...
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around...
When snorkeling in the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) in West Maui, I keep an eye out for certain kinds of fish. Not the brightest or the biggest, but those herbivores such as...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems, limited by the amount of nutrients in the water. But sometimes, certain species of algae reproduce so rapidly that they...
One of the most common inhabitants of the sargassum community, the shrimp Latreutes fucorum (Hippolytidae) is perfectly colored to hide on the leaf-like blades. Off the coast of Belize, Smithsonian...
Closest to the seeps, where the pH is lowest and the water is most acidic, corals no longer grow. Instead there are sand, rubble and seagrasses that are able to survive. Read more about how reef...
The bright, brilliant swirls of blue and green seen from space are a phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea. Phytoplankton can bloom like this, rapidly growing and reproducing, because of a sudden...
“Sea grapes” may sound like something Poseidon would snack on, and not a killer algae. Yet Caulerpa racemosa var. cylindracea poses a serious threat to marine life. Spread by the bilge water of boats...
Most people try to avoid rotting kelp at the beach. The feeling of a floating piece of seaweed wrapping around an ankle is enough to shake even the most steeled swimmer, and then there's the strong...
Macroscopic algae ( Ventricaria ventricosa ), also known as "bubble algae" or "sea pearl," is widespread algal species that can withstand low light. Each of the bubbles is a single cell, making it...
Neptune grass ( Posidonia oceanica ) is an ancient seagrass that is unique to the Mediterranean Sea. It is incredibly slow-growing; so slow that scientists estimate one large meadow that is 9.3 miles...
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