Coastal Ecosystems Quiz

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18 Questions

Where do mangroves typically grow?

Along calm, shallow, tropical coastlines

What makes coral reefs among the best-known marine ecosystems?

Their extraordinary biological productivity

Which zone is characterized by its exposure during low tides?

Intertidal zone

What type of islands are low, narrow, sandy islands that form parallel to a coastline?

Barrier Islands

Which ecosystem varies according to depth and light penetration?

Freshwater Ecosystems

What are tide pools?

Depressions in a rocky shoreline flooded at high tide

What is a key feature of aquatic ecosystems due to the rapid decrease in light with depth?

Vertical stratification

What type of ecosystem is known for being among the world’s most productive and diverse?

Coral reefs

What are phytoplankton?

Microscopic floating algae

Why do many alpine tundra plants have deep pigmentation and leathery leaves?

To protect against strong ultraviolet light in thin mountain atmosphere

What defines communities that occur at the bottom of ocean ecosystems?


What do zooplankton feed on in the pelagic ecosystem?


What is the main role of mangrove forests or swamps?

Stabilizing shorelines and serving as nurseries for commercial species

Which zone in a freshwater lake is described as a warmer upper layer that is mixed by wind and warmed by the sun?


What type of wetlands have trees and are also known as wooded wetlands?


What characterizes bogs among other wetland types?

Composed of accumulated, undecayed vegetation known as peat

Which of the following is true about fens compared to bogs?

Fens are mainly fed by groundwater

What has been the impact of human disturbance on terrestrial ecosystems according to the text?

Damage or disturbance to over half of the world's terrestrial ecosystems

Study Notes

Estuaries and Coastal Ecosystems

  • Estuaries are bays where rivers empty into the sea, mixing fresh water with salt water.
  • Salt marshes are shallow wetlands flooded regularly or occasionally with seawater, occurring on shallow coastlines, including estuaries.
  • Tide pools are depressions in a rocky shoreline that are flooded at high tide but retain some water at low tide.
  • Barrier islands are low, narrow, sandy islands that form parallel to a coastline, occurring where the continental shelf is shallow and rivers or coastal currents provide a steady source of sediments.

Freshwater Ecosystems

  • Freshwater ecosystems vary according to depth and light penetration, which control size and types of vegetation.
  • Pelagic zone refers to the water column, with the epipelagic zone having photosynthetic organisms.
  • Below the epipelagic zone are the mesopelagic, bathypelagic, abyssal, and hadal zones, with decreasing light penetration and depth.
  • Littoral zones refer to shorelines, with the intertidal zone being the area exposed by low tides.

Marine Ecosystems

  • Marine ecosystems vary mainly with depth, temperature, and salinity.
  • Coral reefs and estuaries are among the world’s most productive and diverse ecosystems.
  • Vertical stratification is a key feature of aquatic ecosystems, with communities below the photic zone relying on energy sources other than photosynthesis.
  • Temperature and salinity also affect the amount of oxygen and other elements that can be absorbed in water.
  • Phytoplankton are microscopic floating algae that carry on photosynthesis in pelagic ecosystems.
  • Zooplankton are small, weakly swimming animals that feed on phytoplankton.

Ocean Systems

  • Ocean systems are classified based on depth and proximity to shore, with benthic communities occurring on the bottom.
  • Mangrove forests or swamps help stabilize shorelines and are critical nurseries for fish, shrimp, and other commercial species.

Freshwater Lakes

  • Freshwater lakes have distinct vertical zones, including the benthos, epilimnion, hypolimnion, and thermocline boundary.
  • Benthos refers to the bottom, occupied by various snails, burrowing worms, fish, and other organisms.
  • Epilimnion is a warmer upper layer that is mixed by wind and warmed by the sun.
  • Hypolimnion is a colder, deeper layer that is not mixed.


  • Wetlands are shallow ecosystems in which the land surface is saturated or submerged at least part of the year.
  • They have vegetation that is adapted to grow under saturated conditions.
  • Swamps are also known as wooded wetlands, while marshes are wetlands without trees.
  • Bogs are areas of saturated ground, with deep layers of accumulated, undecayed vegetation known as peat.
  • Fens are similar to bogs except that they are mainly fed by groundwater, with mineral-rich water and specially adapted plant species.

Human Disturbance

  • Humans have become dominant organisms over most of the earth, damaging or disturbing more than half of the world’s terrestrial ecosystems to some extent.

Test your knowledge on different coastal ecosystems such as estuaries, salt marshes, tide pools, and barrier islands. Learn about the unique characteristics and functions of these important ecological systems.

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