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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Seagrass and Seagrass Beds

Seagrasses are found in shallow salty and brackish waters in many parts of the world, from the tropics to the Arctic Circle...

Miami Connects Art and Mangrove Restoration

In coastal towns and cities, vast areas now inhabited by super markets, houses, roads, parking lots, hotels and schools were once occupied by mangrove forests . Growing out of the ocean and onto the...

Rough Reputation: Are Invasive Species All Bad?

The vicious "killer shrimp." Credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Pick up any news article about invasive species and you may confuse it with a police blotter. Generally, invasive species are "almost bulletproof"...

Bugs and Slugs: The Hidden Secret to Healthy Seagrasses

Neptune grass ( Posidonia oceanica ) is a slow-growing and long-lived seagrass native to the Mediterranean. Credit: Gaynor Rosier/Marine Photobank Slip into the water along a sheltered coast in nearly any part of the...

Seaside Lichens

Horizontal bands of color represent different species of lichen that have adapted to the conditions at different heights above sea level. Credit: Stephen Sharnoff Very few plant species can survive close to the ocean,...
A hippopotamus-like creature swims underwater

Flippers or Feet? An Extinct Mammal May Have Been Replaced By Today's Sea Cows

In the seagrass beds and kelp forests of the Oligocene-Miocene transition, nearly 32.5 to 10.5 million years ago, a four-legged, gnarly-toothed mammal roamed the Northern Pacific shores of what is now Japan, Canada and...

Living on the Edge: Mangroves

Mangroves are the biological buffers between land and sea. Without them, communities living along shorelines would be directly exposed to violent storm surge and erosion. Also crucial to fish communities, mangroves provide fertile nursery...

Inside the Mangrove Forest

Welcome to the mangrove forest, where the daily rhythm of the tides sets the pace. These coastal wetlands create a sanctuary for an extraordinary range of creatures, three-fourths of all tropical fish are born...
Mangroves on the edge of the water.

Mangrove Restoration: Letting Mother Nature Do The Work

Red mangroves form an impenetrable, protective barrier against storms and tsunamis. Credit: Smithsonian Institution By Hannah Waters The ecological importance of coastal mangrove forests is common knowledge today. The trees’ gnarled roots , submerged...

Bringing Back Tampa Bay’s Seagrass

Seagrasses are flowering plants that can form dense underwater meadows and are an important shallow water habitat. Credit: Heather Dine, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary By Hannah Waters Back in the 1970s, if any...
Sea otters floating on the surface of the ocean.

Not Just Another Fuzzy Face

A raft of sea otters grooming and resting after foraging. Credit: © Elise Newman Montanino Who hasn’t grinned at the sight of a sea otter floating on its back while grooming itself? No doubt...
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With Every Breath You Take, Thank the Ocean

Kelps are large, brown algae that grow along coasts around the world, especially in cooler regions. Credit: George Cathcart By Kalila Morsink When was the last time you thought about your breathing? Take a...

Investigating Nutrient Pollution's Impact on Mangroves

At Carrie Bow Cay in Belize , Dr. Candy Feller explains her research on the effect of excess nutrients on mangrove swamps. Feller runs the Animal-Plant Interaction Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center...

Meet the obscure microbe that influences climate, ocean ecosystems, and perhaps even evolution

More than half of the oxygen you breathe comes from plants and algae in the ocean, like phytoplankton and seaweed, called marine photosynthesizers . Both use carbon dioxide, water and energy from the sun...
Kopelman Watercolor Detail

Up Close and Personal with a Mangrove Root

Kopelman's watercolors focus on the beautiful sponges that attach to mangrove roots. Credit: Irene Kopelman I got a lot of funny looks at the airport when I opened the oversized cooler for the baggage...

Seagrasses and Light in the Chesapeake Bay

Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—but, thanks to pollution, that sunlight has become more scarce. Nutrient runoff from fertilizers causes microscopic algae (phytoplankton) to grow rapidly...
Juvenile plane-head filefish

A World Adrift: Life in the Sargassum

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...

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