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Coral Reefs and Canada’s Oceanic Habitats

June 1st is World Reef Awareness Day. Canada may have the most lakes in the world but we do connect to the ocean on 3 sides of our country! The ocean plays a huge role in our lives and so too do the ocean's ecosystems. 

Most of our planet is covered in water, and actually, it’s about three-quarters of it! There are so many habitats on land, that we forget there are any in the ocean. 

Ocean habitats are divided into 2; Coastal and Open Ocean habitats. 

Today we're just going to cover coastal habitats which occupy 7% of the total ocean on the continental shelf but have the most marine life in it. The coastal habitats have the most life and areas to live for marine animals and can be put into about 9 categories. 


Coral Reef


The greatest biodiversity of any marine ecosystem is the coral reef. The coral reef is made up of thousands of animals and polyps, found all over the world, and are made up of more than 250 different types of corals.

One of the most important parts of the ocean's ecosystem but they only occupy less than 1/10th of the ocean's floor.

The coral reefs are formed over a process of 1000 years! They are made of tiny animals called polyps in colonies. Polyps are colourless little organisms but they attract a lot of algae called zooxanthellae; which live inside the polyps and make them the colours we see when we look at corals 

Coral reefs have huge benefits for marine and land animals;

  • They support 25% of all marine life
  • They protect the coastal communities against tropical storms 
  • They attract tourism in cities that have them in their close waters. 

The other habitats are in different areas of the country but they all affect Canada's wildlife and tourism spaces. What are the other categories though?


Estuaries 


First, there are the Estuaries which are zones the ocean meets rivers all over Canada. Many marine animals live here and are considered one of the most productive places on earth for wildlife. They are often a mixture of salt and fresh water and are often called a bay, inlet, sound, or wetland. 


Salt Marshes


Salt marshes are flooded coastline wetlands that are drained by tides. They are seen as ecological gardens of the coast. They are used as nursing grounds for marine life such as shrimp, crab, and finfish. Salt marshes are found in 9% of Canada’s ocean connections in the Northern Territories, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.


Seagrass Meadows


Seagrass meadows are formed by underwater plants and have over 70 species identified by scientists. They grow all over the world except Antarctica and love both tropical and arctic waters.

One of the most important food sources for marine life, animals that rely on these meadows for food are manatees, green sea turtles, and aquatic birds. Storms often do less damage to coral reefs and coastal lands because of how they trap soil and sand in their roots.


Intertidal 


Where land and ocean meet just like the rocky shores of white rock or Stanley Park beaches in British Columbia. Marine spaces are normally underwater during high tide and in the open during low tide. Many species call this their home; such as sea stars, mussels, barnacles, sea cucumbers, crabs, octopuses, and even fish in tide pools.


Mudflats


Are where mud and silt are brought in by the ocean and are exposed to low tides. Productive breeding and eating grounds for marine life like mollusks, crustaceans, and worms such as lugworms, oysters, cockles and snails, and even many species of fish. Found at parks that usually have bays, lagoons, and estuaries. This habitat has the distinct smell of rotten eggs but it is packed with invertebrates and bacteria. These can be found in Nova Scotia.


Kelp forests


Kelp forests can grow up to 262 feet long. Found between temperate and polar waters usually on the western coasts of continents. They provide food and shelter to over 1000 species of marine animals and plants. Usually, you can find fish, sea urchins, snails, sea otters and even sea lions and whales like to be around it. Found in all areas of the ocean that Canada connects to such as the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic.


Tidewater glaciers


Tidewater Glaciers flow all the way down to the ocean and can calve a small number of icebergs. They are usually found in the northern territories or the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. serve as pupping and molting habitat for some of the largest seasonal aggregations of harbor seals.


Oyster reefs


Oyster reefs are made up of many oysters that just pile next to each other on a rock and build a large mound of oysters. Similar to coral reefs because they provide home-like structures for water plants and animals and protect the shoreline from erosion. Oysters serve as “nature vacuums” by filtering particles out of the water. The Pacific Oysters are not native to Canada’s waters and were brought up for agricultural purposes.

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