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Marine Habitats


About 70% of our planet is covered with water. Earth has been nicknamed “the blue planet” because it looks blue from space. About 96% of this water is marine, or salt water, made up of the oceans covering the Earth. Within these oceans, there are many different types of habitat, or environments in which plants and animals live, ranging from freezing polar ice to tropical coral reefs.
  1. Gulf of Mexico
  2. Coral Reefs
  3. Intertidal Zone
  4. Mangroves
  1. Pelagic Zone
  2. Deep Sea
  3. Hydrothermal Vents

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico Map / NOAA

Learn about the marine habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, including marine life that live there, and the potential effects of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil leak that began in April 2010.

Coral Reefs

Coral Reef in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands / NOAA

While tropical reefs are more well-known, cold water coral reefs exist, too. Learn about coral reefs, how they form and why they are important.

Intertidal Zone

An intertidal zone along the coast of New Hampshire, looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.

The intertidal zone is where land meets sea. It is a challenging environment in which to live, but many species thrive here.


Mangrove trees showing underwater root system. NOAA OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP).

The term “mangrove” refers to a habitat comprised of a number of halophytic (salt-tolerant) plant species, of which there are more than 12 families and 50 species worldwide. Mangroves grow in intertidal or estuarine areas.

Pelagic Zone

Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) - Guadalupe Island, Mexico

The open ocean, or pelagic zone, is the area of the ocean outside of coastal areas, and where you’ll find some of the biggest marine life species.

Deep Sea

NOAA DeepWorker submersible vessel image.

The deep sea includes the deepest, darkest, coldest parts of the ocean. Eighty percent of the ocean consists of waters greater than 1,000 meters in depth.

Hydrothermal Vents

Black Smoker Hydrothermal Vent

Hydrothermal vents, located in the deep sea, were discovered relatively recently. It was only about 30 years ago that scientists in the submersible Alvin discovered these undersea "geysers."

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