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Work the System

Mangrove Ecosystem

We often think of the oceans as one big bowl of salt water. But the fact is there are lots of different environments in the oceans — more than on land.

Coral reefsestuariescontinental shelves , the  deep sea  — these are some of the ecosystems within the oceans. Ecosystems are communities of organisms that depend on each other and their surroundings. Each ecosystem is connected to those around it.

Too Many Examples? SAMPLE!


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A Sea of Questions ? ? ?

Ian Harrison headshot

What kinds of questions do scientists ask when they study an ocean ecosystem? Good question! Scroll down this page to see some questions I asked about a tropical mangrove ecosystem.

red mangrove roots underwater

How do mangroves interact with other ecosystems?

Many young fish find shelter in the mangrove forests until they grow up and move to deeper waters. The roots provide places to hide from their enemies.

What makes the mangrove different from other ecosystems?

The  mangrove  ecosystem is a special forest found in warm, coastal regions. The trees take root in the ocean while their leaves stay above water. This makes them the perfect home for both land and marine plants and animals!

How have mangrove trees adapted to live in salt water? 

Mangrove trees live in water that's 10 times saltier than that which would kill most other land plants. Why? Their roots filter most of the salt out of the seawater.

Are mangroves endangered ecosystems?

Mangroves are among the most threatened habitats in the world. More than half of the original mangrove forests have been lost and the remaining forests are damaged.


Now that you've explored some of the questions scientists ask, investigate another ocean ecosystem, and ask:

  • How are organisms within the ecosystem important to one another?
  • What makes this ecosystem special?
  • How do organisms adapt to living in this ecosystem?
  • How is this ecosystem connected to neighboring ones?
  • Is this ecosystem  endangered?
Image Credits:

Photos: A Sea of Questions: Ian Harrison: courtesy of AMNH, Denis Finnin Mangrove: courtesy of OAR, National Undersea Research Program; Too many examples? Sample! Ian Harrison: courtesy of AMNH, Denis Finnin; Illustrations: Russell Farrell