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Coastal Ecosystems

Mangroves are like nursery schools for many of colorful fish that populate coral reefs. Among the roots and nutrient-rich waters in coastal mangrove swamps, juvenile fish get food and protection from predators until they mature and can migrate offshore to the reefs. These valuable nurseries are disappearing at an alarming rate, and so are the fish they support (Illustration by E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The narrow region where land and ocean meet is among the most dynamic and complex collection of physical and biological systems on Earth. These can include salt marshes, mangroves, wetlands, estuaries, reefs, and bays often linked in an intricate network of physical, chemical, and biological interchanges above and below the water. They are often highly productive, highly valued, and highly accessible, making them a natural intersection between the human and natural worlds.

In addition to their role in the wider marine and terrestrial systems they link to, coastal ecosystems provide a broad range of benefits to humans. They can act as storm barriers and water filters, they are nurseries and habitat for commercially important plants and animals, and they are among the most popular tourist destinations.

Coastal systems are also very sensitive to environmental conditions. Small changes in such things as temperature, salinity, nutrient availability, or sediment load, whether natural or human-induced, can have wide-ranging impacts.

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From Oceanus Magazine

An introduction to marsh bothering

Photo essay. Sea-level modeler and WHOI Scientist Christopher Piecuch plunges into fieldwork in Prince Edward Island salt marshes to gather data that shows how coastal climate has changed and may…

A toxic double whammy for sea anemones

Exposure to both oil and sunlight can be harmful to sea anemones

Squid Games

Shortfin squid are becoming more available to New England fishermen, but why?

Waves of inspiration

Rachael Talibart explores the infinite creativity of wave photography

Burrows on the beach

Rebuilding after a hurricane isn’t easy—especially for those pale, stalk-eyed creatures known as ghost crabs