Benthic zone
Overview
 
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water
Body of water
A body of water or waterbody is any significant accumulation of water, usually covering the Earth or another planet. The term body of water most often refers to large accumulations of water, such as oceans, seas, and lakes, but it may also include smaller pools of water such as ponds, puddles or...

 such as an ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

 or a lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos
Benthos
Benthos is the community of organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.Many organisms...

. They generally live in close relationship with the substrate bottom; many such organisms are permanently attached to the bottom. The superficial layer of the soil lining the given body of water, the benthic boundary layer
Benthic boundary layer
The benthic boundary layer is the layer of water directly above the sediment at the bottom of a river, lake or sea. It is generated by the friction of the water moving over the surface of the substrate...

, is an integral part of the benthic zone, as it influences greatly the biological activity which takes place there.
Encyclopedia
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water
Body of water
A body of water or waterbody is any significant accumulation of water, usually covering the Earth or another planet. The term body of water most often refers to large accumulations of water, such as oceans, seas, and lakes, but it may also include smaller pools of water such as ponds, puddles or...

 such as an ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

 or a lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos
Benthos
Benthos is the community of organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.Many organisms...

. They generally live in close relationship with the substrate bottom; many such organisms are permanently attached to the bottom. The superficial layer of the soil lining the given body of water, the benthic boundary layer
Benthic boundary layer
The benthic boundary layer is the layer of water directly above the sediment at the bottom of a river, lake or sea. It is generated by the friction of the water moving over the surface of the substrate...

, is an integral part of the benthic zone, as it influences greatly the biological activity which takes place there. Examples of contact soil layers include sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

 bottoms, rocky outcrops, coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

, and bay mud
Bay mud
Bay mud consists of thick deposits of soft, unconsolidated silty clay, which is saturated with water; these soil layers are situated at the bottom of certain estuaries, which are normally in temperate regions that have experienced cyclical glacial cycles...

.

Description

The benthic region begins at the shore line (intertidal
Intertidal zone
The intertidal zone is the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide . This area can include many different types of habitats, with many types of animals like starfish, sea urchins, and some species of coral...

 or eulittoral zone) and extends downward along the surface of the continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

 out to sea. The continental shelf is a gently sloping benthic region that extends away from the land mass. At the continental shelf edge, usually about 200 meters deep, the gradient greatly increases and is known as the continental slope. The continental slope drops down to the deep sea floor. The deep-sea floor is called the abyssal plain
Abyssal plain
An abyssal plain is an underwater plain on the deep ocean floor, usually found at depths between 3000 and 6000 metres. Lying generally between the foot of a continental rise and a mid-ocean ridge, abyssal plains cover more than 50% of the Earth’s surface. They are among the flattest, smoothest...

 and is usually about 4000 meters deep. The ocean floor is not all flat but has submarine ridges
Mid-ocean ridge
A mid-ocean ridge is a general term for an underwater mountain system that consists of various mountain ranges , typically having a valley known as a rift running along its spine, formed by plate tectonics. This type of oceanic ridge is characteristic of what is known as an oceanic spreading...

 and deep ocean trenches known as the hadal zone
Hadal zone
The hadal zone , also known as the hadopelagic zone and trench zone, is the delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean...

.

For comparison, the pelagic zone
Pelagic zone
Any water in a sea or lake that is not close to the bottom or near to the shore can be said to be in the pelagic zone. The word pelagic comes from the Greek πέλαγος or pélagos, which means "open sea". The pelagic zone can be thought of in terms of an imaginary cylinder or water column that goes...

 is the descriptive term for the ecological region above the benthos, including the water-column up to the surface. Depending on the water-body, the benthic zone may include areas which are only a few inches below water, such as a stream or shallow pond; at the other end of the spectrum, benthos of the deep ocean includes the bottom levels of the oceanic abyssal zone
Abyssal zone
The abyssal zone is the abyssopelagic layer or pelagic zone that contains the very deep benthic communities near the bottom of oceans. "Abyss" derives from the Greek word ἄβυσσος, meaning bottomless. At depths of 4,000 to 6,000 metres , this zone remains in perpetual darkness and never receives...

.

For information on animals that live in the deeper areas of the oceans see aphotic zone
Aphotic zone
The aphotic zone is the portion of a lake or ocean where there is little or no sunlight. It is formally defined as the depths beyond which less than 1% of sunlight penetrates. Consequently, bioluminescence is essentially the only light found in this zone...

. Generally, these include life forms that tolerate cool temperature
Temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

s and low oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 levels, but this depends on the depth of the water.

Organisms

Benthos
Benthos
Benthos is the community of organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.Many organisms...

are the organisms which live in the benthic zone, and are different from those elsewhere in the water column. Many are adapted to live on the substrate (bottom). In their habitats they can be considered as dominant creatures. Many organisms adapted to deep-water pressure cannot survive in the upper parts of the water column. The pressure difference can be very significant (approximately one atmosphere
Atmosphere (unit)
The standard atmosphere is an international reference pressure defined as 101325 Pa and formerly used as unit of pressure. For practical purposes it has been replaced by the bar which is 105 Pa...

 for each 10 meters of water depth).

Because light does not penetrate very deep ocean-water, the energy source for the benthic ecosystem is often organic matter from higher up in the water column which drifts down to the depths. This dead and decaying matter
Detritus
Detritus is a biological term used to describe dead or waste organic material.Detritus may also refer to:* Detritus , a geological term used to describe the particles of rock produced by weathering...

 sustains the benthic food chain
Food chain
A food web depicts feeding connections in an ecological community. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs...

; most organisms in the benthic zone are scavengers or detritivore
Detritivore
Detritivores, also known as detritophages or detritus feeders or detritus eaters or saprophages, are heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming detritus . By doing so, they contribute to decomposition and the nutrient cycles...

s. Some microorganism
Microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

s use chemosynthesis
Chemosynthesis
In biochemistry, chemosynthesis is the biological conversion of one or more carbon molecules and nutrients into organic matter using the oxidation of inorganic molecules or methane as a source of energy, rather than sunlight, as in photosynthesis...

 to produce biomass
Biomass (ecology)
Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms,...

.

Benthic organisms can be divided into two categories based on whether they make their home on the ocean floor or an inch or two into the ocean floor. Those living on the surface of the ocean floor are known as epifauna. Those who live burrowed into the ocean floor are known as infauna.

Habitats

In ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

ic environments, benthic habitats can be further zoned by depth. From the shallowest to the deepest are: the epipelagic (less than 200 meters), the mesopelagic
Mesopelagic
The mesopelagic is that part of the pelagic zone that extends from a depth of 200 to 1000 metres below the ocean surface. It lies between the photic epipelagic above and the aphotic bathypelagic below, where there is no light at all...

 (200–1000 metres), the bathyal (1000–4000 meters), the abyssal (4000–6000 meters) and the deepest, the hadal (below 6000 meters).

The lower zones are in deep, pressurized areas of the ocean. Because of the high pressures and seclusion neither tidal changes nor human impacts have had much of an effect on these areas, and the habitats have not changed much over the years. Many benthic organisms have retained their historic evolutionary characteristics. Some organisms are significantly larger than their relatives living in shallower zones, largely because of higher oxygen concentration in deep water.

It is not easy to map or observe these organisms and their habitats, and most observation has been done through remote controlled submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s.

See also

  • Aphotic zone
    Aphotic zone
    The aphotic zone is the portion of a lake or ocean where there is little or no sunlight. It is formally defined as the depths beyond which less than 1% of sunlight penetrates. Consequently, bioluminescence is essentially the only light found in this zone...

  • Armor (hydrology)
    Armor (hydrology)
    Armor, in hydrology and geography is the association of surface pebbles, rocks or boulders with stream beds or beaches. Most commonly hydrological armor occurs naturally; however, a man-made form is usually called riprap, when shorelines or stream banks are fortified for erosion protection with...

  • Benthic fish
  • Benthopelagic fish
  • Bottom trawling
    Bottom trawling
    Bottom trawling is trawling along the sea floor. It is also often referred to as "dragging".The scientific community divides bottom trawling into benthic trawling and demersal trawling...

  • Deep sea
    Deep sea
    The deep sea, or deep layer, is the lowest layer in the ocean, existing below the thermocline and above the seabed, at a depth of 1000 fathoms or more. Little or no light penetrates this part of the ocean and most of the organisms that live there rely for subsistence on falling organic matter...

  • Intertidal zone
    Intertidal zone
    The intertidal zone is the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide . This area can include many different types of habitats, with many types of animals like starfish, sea urchins, and some species of coral...

  • Lake stratification
    Lake stratification
    Lake stratification is the separation of lakes into three layers:# Epilimnion - top of the lake.# Metalimnion - middle layer that may change depth throughout the day.# Hypolimnion - the bottom layer....

  • Littoral zone
  • Neritic zone
    Neritic zone
    The neritic zone, also called coastal waters, the coastal ocean or the sublittoral zone, is the part of the ocean extending from the low tide mark to the edge of the continental shelf, with a relatively shallow depth extending to about 200 meters...

  • Pelagic zone
    Pelagic zone
    Any water in a sea or lake that is not close to the bottom or near to the shore can be said to be in the pelagic zone. The word pelagic comes from the Greek πέλαγος or pélagos, which means "open sea". The pelagic zone can be thought of in terms of an imaginary cylinder or water column that goes...

  • Photic zone
    Photic zone
    The photic zone or euphotic zone is the depth of the water in a lake or ocean that is exposed to sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis to occur...

  • Profundal zone
    Profundal zone
    The profundal zone is a very cold and ordinary zone, such as an ocean or a lake, located below the range of effective light penetration. This is typically below the thermocline, the vertical zone in the water through which temperature drops rapidly...

  • Tide pool
    Tide pool
    Tide pools are rocky pools by oceans that are filled with seawater. Many of these pools exist as separate entities only at low tide.Tide pools are habitats of uniquely adaptable animals that have engaged the special attention of naturalists and marine biologists, as well as philosophical...

  • Sediment Profile Imagery
    Sediment Profile Imagery
    Sediment Profile Imagery is an underwater technique for photographing the interface between the seabed and the overlying water. The technique is used to measure or estimate biological, chemical, and physical processes occurring in the first few centimetres of sediment, pore water, and the...

     (SPI)
  • Stream bed
    Stream bed
    A stream bed is the channel bottom of a stream, river or creek; the physical confine of the normal water flow. The lateral confines or channel margins, during all but flood stage, are known as the stream banks or river banks. In fact, a flood occurs when a stream overflows its banks and flows onto...

  • Water column


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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