Water And Oceanography

Biomes of the Gulf of Mexico an Overview



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The Northeastern Gulf of Mexico is on the minds of billions throughout the world right now due to the biggest environmental disaster in US history. Now that it is about to be damaged for the foreseeable future and beyond, there is interest in describing the gulf in terms of its classification as a biome, or entity that sustains life in many forms.

First, the Gulf of Mexico is predominantly a marine biome. Marine is a term that applies to saline water in concentrations that are higher than any other aquatic biome. In the Marine biome, there are the open ocean, coral reef and estuary biomes. The Northeastern gulf is also host to the brackish and inter coastal biomes that have been packed with life of all types.

The marine biome is broken down further into the intertidal zone, where the ocean and land come together and where much of ocean or marine life that we know and thrive on lives in the shallower saline and brackish waters.

The pelagic zone is farther from land and is the actual open ocean where surface plants, fish and animals live. Any deeper and light does not penetrate enough to sustain aquatic plants. At depth there is also far less oxygen, and the water is much colder.

The benthic zone is essentially the bottom of the ocean, except for the deepest parts which are the abyssal zone and then the hadal or deepest trenches. The benthic zone can be in shallower waters, where coral reefs, aquatic plants and the life forms that depend on them live, or it can be in the colder less oxygenated and very dark deeper waters where only scavengers can thrive on everything from falling dead material or even chemicals and hydrocarbons that seep from vents or breaks in the ocean floor.

Recently, deep, cool water coral reefs were discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. These reefs were found to be thriving with living corals, crustaceans, fish and anemones.This was a major discovery since it is estimated that only about 1 percent of the theoretical reefs of this type in the whole world have actually been seen or noted.

Since aquatic plants need photosynthesis to thrive, another way of describing the marine biome of the Gulf of Mexico is in terms of light penetration: there are the daylight, twilight and midnight zones, depending on the depth of the water. Recently a massive entire coral reef was

A special zone, the Hypoxic Zone, extends from the mouth of the Mississippi river and extends Westward to Texas. This zone forms every Summer as a result of  nutrient loaded discharge from the Mississippi River. The less dense freshwater creates stratification and blocking of circulation with the dense deeper water which loses it's ability to pick up oxygen from the oxygen rich surface water. The nutrients can come from farming, sewage disposal, naturally occuring nutrients that wash in and from other sources.


Deep, cold water coral reefs in the Gulf Of Mexico


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