Characteristics, Features and Types of Aquatic Ecosystems

What Is the Aquatic Ecosystem?

The aquatic ecosystem is that ecosystem that has water as a basic element of development and growth of all the species that live in it.

This is composed of  elements of flora and fauna that meet under a body of water with properties that generate life. These bodies of water can be oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, swamps, streams or lagoons.

Aquatic ecosystems, in addition to providing the space where many species subsist , provide a series of inert elements that are fundamental for the life cycle of the species that inhabit them.

The variety and quantity of species that will develop in a given ecosystem will depend on its salinity level, its water temperature, sun exposure, depth, its food availability, among other factors.

Characteristics, Features and Types of Aquatic Ecosystems

Coral reefs, one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on earth.

Characteristics and Features of Aquatic Ecosystems

Among the main characteristics and features of aquatic ecosystems we can highlight that:

  • They can be freshwater or saltwater.
  • They provide the living space for many underwater species.
  • Its flora is mainly composed of algae and corals .
  • They have a high biological diversity that positions them as the most productive and richest ecosystems on the planet.
  • They fulfill certain essential functions in the life of the planet , such as helping to regulate the hydrological cycle and acting as a filter for pollution.

Examples of aquatic ecosystem

Some examples of aquatic ecosystems are:

  • Mangroves: With dense and dark waters, with little movement, usually clay soils covered with decomposing organic matter, small fish and amphibian life forms predominate, as well as mangroves, trees whose characteristic roots protrude from the water.
  • Cost line: The coasts of the warm seas are particularly abundant in animal and plant life, and therefore are the most common fishing regions. Coral reefs, schools of fish and various food chains make up its blue waters.
  • Ponds: Characterized by waters with very little movement and a high presence of organic matter from neighboring trees, they tend to host a huge variety of microscopic life, as well as small fish and insects.
  • Polar ocean: The icy waters of the poles, abundant in icebergs and frozen land, are also home to minimal flora (usually bacterial), and different animals adapted to intense cold, such as aquatic mammals, cold-water fish, etc.

Types of aquatic ecosystems

1- Oceans

The oceans are ecosystems with a great variety of characteristics. They are considered to cover 70% of the Earth’s surface and are home to a large number of organisms.

There are five oceans on the planet: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Antarctic. The oceans have an average depth of about 4,000 meters and correspond to the largest surface of water that exists on the planet.

The organisms that live in the oceans can be classified into three large groups. First, there are pelagic organisms, which are characterized by developing in the so-called open sea, that portion of the ocean far from the continents.

In second place, there are benthic organisms, which are those that live at the bottom of the seas, among which algae, some crustaceans and corals stand out.

And thirdly, planktonic organisms live in the oceans, which are characterized by being carried along by currents and by developing on the surface of the water, where they float.

Algae, larvae and jellyfish are some of the ocean’s own planktonic organisms.

2- Coral reefs

Coral reefs are considered the aquatic area with the greatest diversity of organisms.

This ecosystem covers less than 1% of the oceans; however, it is the second ecosystem with the highest amount of biodiversity , preceded by forests.

Within the coral reefs inhabit mollusks, a great variety of algae and some 4,000 different species of fish. At the bottom of the reefs are structures made of calcium carbonate in which a large number of organisms live.

Read: Why Do We Need to Conserve Our Natural Resources

Four types of reefs can be identified: barrier, coastal, atoll, and patch. Barrier reefs are those that are close to the coasts and are separated from them by lagoons. The coastal reefs, also called bordering, are generated in the coasts.

The atoll reefs are those that grow around volcanoes that are submerged in the middle of the sea; in the middle of these reefs a lagoon forms.

Finally, patch reefs are those that have a certain distance between them, since the formations are not continuous.

3- Wetlands

These are the ecosystems that are considered to have the highest level of productivity. They are located in spaces where there are shallow waters (they reach a maximum depth of six meters).

Wetlands can be fresh or salt water and can be in a context of still or moving waters.

This ecosystem can also appear in naturally generated settings, such as deltas, swamps or swamps; or in artificial settings, such as dams or ponds.

Wetlands are characterized by retaining water and can lessen the damaging effects of floods. The vegetation that grows in wetlands is characterized by being hydrophilic, that is, it is capable of remaining under water for long periods.

A great variety of organisms are found in wetlands: small insects; birds like herons, pelicans, and eagles; fish such as trout and catfish; and medium-sized mammals, such as otters.

4- Estuaries

Estuaries are the deepest areas at the mouth of a river in an ocean. They are characterized because sweet and salty waters are mixed on their surface.

Many nutrients are concentrated in estuaries and it is considered one of the most fertile ecosystems. The mouths of rivers are a clear example of estuaries.

This ecosystem is also considered essential for the prevention of disasters caused by floods, and it is a defense against strong storms.

Estuaries are the setting for other ecosystems, such as wetlands and mangroves.

The mixture of fresh water with salt water makes estuaries have special peculiarities in terms of the characteristics of the water: it has a greater amount of nutrients thanks to the mixture of both types of water.

5- Lentic

These ecosystems are characterized by being areas of stagnant water and with little movement, such as swamps or lakes.

Depending on the depth of the ecosystem, it is possible that they have more or less biodiversity, this due to the action of sunlight on the surface; the greater the possibility of sunlight, the more aquatic plants there will be.

6- Lotics

Streams and rivers are part of lotic ecosystems , which are characterized by having a constant, rapid and unidirectional flow of water.

Organisms that live in these conditions have great swimming abilities, because they must avoid being carried away by currents.

Salmons and sardines are two species that commonly inhabit lotic ecosystems.

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