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A Marine biology, ecology and geology glossary [v1.0]

Citation

Costello MJ, Harris P, Pearce B, Fauchald K, Fiorentino A, Bourillet J-F, Hamylton S (editors) 2010. A glossary of terminology used in marine biology, ecology, and geology. Version 1.0.

[More information]
Abiotic
Without life.
Abyss
The great depths of the oceans, usually considered to be depths of 2000 to 6000 m, a region of low temperatures, high pressure and an absence of sunlight.
Abyssal Hills
Tract, sometimes extensive, of low (100-500 m) elevations on the deep sea floor.
Abyssal Plain
An extensive, flat, gently sloping or nearly level region at abyssal depths.
Abyssopelagic
Open water habitat of the abyss. Distinct from the benthic (seabed) habitat.
Accretion
Process of sediment build-up.
Acoustic backscatter
A method of detecting discontinuities in the water, often used for current and turbidity measurements and for the seafloor.
Adaptation
Process by which species evolve, and by which individuals adapt, their growth and/or behaviour to better survive and grow in a particular environment.
Adaptive radiation
Process of new species evolving to adapt to different environmental conditions.
Advection
The horizontal movement of water, or a property of water through such movement (e.g. Temperature change through movement of water).
Aggradation
Reworking of the sediment by waves and currents.
Aggregate
The collective term for sand, gravel and crushed rock. They can be compacted to firmly fill a space and are often bound together with cement (to make concrete) or bitumen (for road surfacing).
Aggregation
A collection of animals or plants gathered or clustered together.
Algae
The simplest plants; may be single-celled (such as diatoms) or quite large (such as sea weeds). Live in salt or fresh water.
Allopatric speciation
Process through which species arise while separated geographically.
Alpha-diversity
The number of species in a sample.
Aphotic zone
The deepest part of the water column, where light does not penetrate.
Apron
Gently dipping featureless surface, underlain primarily by sediment, at the base of any steeper slope.
Archaeology
The study of historic and prehistoric communities.
Archipelago
A group of adjacent islands.
Assemblage
A neutral substitute for "community" but implying no necessary interrelationships among species; also called species assemblage.
Atoll
An annular reef enclosing a lagoon in which there are no promontories other than reefs and islets composed of reef material.
Bank
Elevation over which the depth of water is relatively shallow but normally sufficient for safe surface navigation. Sand banks are sedimentary features longitudinal to the current.
Barrier islands
Offshore sandbanks that may, or may not be exposed at low tide and which protect a coast from prevailing wave action.
Basin
Depression, characteristically in the deep sea floor, more or less equidimensional in plan and of variable extent.
Bathyal
Deep-sea, variously attributed to range from 200 m to 2,000 m or 4,000 m depth.
Bathymetry
Seafloor elevations and the variations in water depth; the topography of the seafloor.
Bathypelagic
Open water habitat in the bathyal, as distinct from benthic (seabed) habitat.
Bathypelagic zone
The dark, deep part of the water column (1000-2000 m) below the euphotic (well-lit) zone and mesopelagic (poorly lit) zone but above the abysso-pelagic zone.
Bay, embayment
Partly enclosed area of coast.
Beach draw down
Removal of deposits from a beach by seabed transport.
Beach recharge
Placement of aggregates on beaches to replace that lost by erosion (beach nourishment) or to protect coastal resources.
Bedform
Sand sheets, ribbons and sand waves on the seabed.
Bedload transport
The transport of sediments along the seabed.
Bejernick's law
That species have the potential to be everywhere over time but that the environment selects which occur in a place.
Benthic
Associated with the seafloor.
Benthic boundary layer
A zone at the seabed where sediment transport occurs.
Benthic ecology
The nature and distribution of organisms on or within the seabed.
Benthic fauna
Animals that live on or within the seabed.
Benthos
The collection of organisms living on or within seabed.
Berm
A narrow shelf, bank, or ledge at the top or bottom of a slope.
Beta-diversity
The variation if species composition between samples in a geographic area. Similar to species turnover which is the variation over time.
Biocoenosis
The "living community"; formulated in 1877 by Karl Möbius; describes the organisms living in the same habitat, and is a now used synonymously with the term "community".
Biodiversity
The Convention of Biological Diversity definition encompasses the variation within species (genetic, phenotypic), between species, and of ecosystems (habitats, productivity, processes). Most commonly used at species level.
Biogenic habitat
Physical habitat created by living organisms, such as coral reefs, oyster beds, tubeworm reefs, kelp beds.
Biogeographic boundary
Area across which species composition changes more rapidly than with a biogeographic region. Border of a biome.
Bioherm
Mound-shaped deposits of rock and sediment produced by marine organisms. Coral reefs and halimeda banks are well-known examples.
Biomass
The mass of organisms in a community, measured as weight (in grams).
Biome
A biogeographic region defined by an assemblage of species distinct from other regions, often with many characteristic endemic (geographically rare or localized) species. Distinct from habitat which is characterised by its dominant species (often common species).
Bioregionalisation
A spatial representation depicting the boundaries of hierarchical geographic areas considered useful for environmental management.
Biota
, inclusive, but unspecified term covering all living organisms, including fauna and flora.
Biotone
A zone of transition between core provinces used in an Australian bioregionalisation scheme. Biotones are not simply "fuzzy" boundaries but represent unique transition zones between the core provinces.
Biotope
A habitat with a characteristic community. Also called facies.
Boulder
Stones > 256 mm diameter.
Boundary layer currents
Currents at the sediment-water interface.
Brackish
Neither freshwater nor full-salinity seawater. Typically with 1-20 ppt salinity. See estuarine.
Burrowing
Organisms that burrow in the substratum, be it sediments or rocks.
Canyon
A relatively narrow, deep depression with steep sides, the bottom of which generally has a continuous slope, developed characteristically on some continental slopes.
Cay
A small, low elevation sandy island formed on the surface of a coral reef.
Channel
A narrow sea area, often with strong currents, between island and mainland, between two major islands, or created by currents in seafloor sediment. (e.g. deep-sea channel).
Chemoautotroph
Organisms that create energy from chemical reactions, as distinct from phototrophs which use sunlight.
Circalittoral
Seabed on the Continental Shelf dominated by animals, algae rare or absent, seasonally stratified, effect of wave action limited to storms, Typically considered between 50-200 m depth range.
Cline
A geographic gradient in some variable, such as a species attribute (e.g. Colour) along a geographic gradient.
Clay
Particles of between 0.00024 mm to 0.0039 mm in size, or all particles < 0.004 mm in diameter. Smaller than silt. In contrast to silt, clay has colloidal properties (i.e. particles unlikely to settle when floating in a liquid). Mud is comprised of clay and silt.
Cobble
Stones 64 to 256 mm diameter.
Cold seep
Are of seafloor where gases and fluids are released but not hot water (hydrothermal vent).
Colonial
Animals that live as a part of one physicly connected colony, such as corals and some tubeworms.
Colonization
Process of organisms establishing themselves in an environment where they were not already present.
Commensal
Organisms of different species that live together, sharing space or food, whereby at least one partner benefits from the association and neither have detrimental effects on the other (i.e. Not parasitic).
Community
A group of species that are assumed to be interdependent (though this is often not demonstrated). The term can be used in a variety of hierarchies. Communities at larger scales can be progressively subdivided, such as spatially, taxonomically and trophically, to finer scales.
Competitive exclusion
One species excludes another due to being a superior competitor for a resource.
Competitive release
The absence of a competitor allows a species to increase in abundance and/or distribution (e.g. An invasive species).
Conditions
Constraints or requirements imposed on a licence as part of the consent for aggregate dredging.
Continental margin
The submerged prolongation of continental land mass consisting of the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf, slope and rise but not the deep ocean floor.
Continental Rise
A gentle slope rising from the oceanic depths towards the foot of a Continental Slope of between 1 and 2 degrees slope.
Continental Shelf
A zone adjacent to a continent (or around an island) and extending from the low water line to a depth at which there is usually a marked increase of slope towards oceanic depths; often generalized to about 200m depth.
Continental Slope
Located seaward from the shelf edge to the upper edge of a Continental Rise, with a slope of > 2 degrees, or the point where there is a general reduction in slope (i.e. < 1 degree slope).
Convection
The vertical movement of water as part of its stirring caused by differences in temperature.
Coral reef platform
Flat or nearly flat area of considerable extent composed of live or dead coral reef in the photic sea surface waters, dropping off abruptly on one or more sides.
Corridor
Narrow geographic areas considered to facilitate the dispersal of species from one area to another across an otherwise unsuitable environment.
Deep
In oceanography, an obsolete term which was generally restricted to depths greater than 6,000 m.
Delta
Seaward prograding sediment body deposited at the mouth of a river.
Demersal
A species living on or near the seabed. Commonly used for near-seabed living fish.
Deposit feeding
Animals that feed on sediments and other material deposited on the seabed.
Digital Terrain Model (DTM)
A grid used to represent the shape of the seafloor or land surface. The characteristics are the origins and the grid sizes in 2 or 3 dimensions.
Diversity
Biological or ecological diversity is most commonly measured as the number of species, also called species richness. Many other indices of diversity include the relative abundance of species as well as species richness in their calculation. These indices may emphasise the dominance or evenness of the abundance of species in a sample. See alpha, beta, gamma diversity, and biodiversity.
Dominant species
A species that dominates a sample or area by virtue of its abundance, biomass, size, or conspicuousness.
Downwelling
The process by which surface waters sinks deeper on the ocean.
Dysphotic zone
The part of the water column, below the euphotic zone, that receives low levels of sunlight but insufficient to support plant growth; see also mesopelagic.
Ecosystem
The combination of species, their interactions, and the physical and chemical processes in their environment in a defined area.
Ecotone
A transition zone between two ecologically distinct areas such as habitats, biotopes or ecosystems.
Encrusting
Form of growth of animals and plants with a tough or hard texture (the crust), over rocks and other materials.
Endemics
Species only known to occur at one location or area of defined extent The location may be of any size.
Epibenthos
The collection of organisms living upon the seabed, including animals (epifauna) and plants (epiflora) living on the surface of the seabed or on other animals and plants that live there.
Epibiota
Animals, plants and microbes living on the seabed.
Epipelagic
The collection of organisms living in well-lit (euphotic) surface waters of the open ocean; above the mesopelagic.
Errant
Animals that can wander, are mobile. As distinct from sessile and sedentary.
Escarpment
Elongated and comparatively steep (sometimes vertical) slope separating flat or gently sloping areas at different average depth.
Estuary
Inlet with sufficient freshwater input from a river such that part of the inlet has an area with regularly variable or generally lowered salinity.
Eulittoral
The area between the low and high tide marks, and the supralittoral and sublittoral fringe. Also called mediolittoral, tidal flat, and hydrolittoral.
Euphotic zone
The upper part of the water column that receives sufficient light to allow plant growth. May extend to 50 m depth.
Euryhaline
Organisms that can live in a wide range of salinities.
Eutrophication
The environmental problem of excessive plant growth (e.g. planktonic or benthic alga) leading to oxygen fluctuations (hypoxia, anoxia, supersaturation), and where dead and rotting plants create a public nuisance. Typically results from release of nutrients from human activities.
Evenness
Also called equitability, refer to how the abundance of species is distributed in a sample or group of samples. If all species have equal abundance then evenness is maximised. The inverse of evenness is dominance.
Extinction
Disappearance of a species from Earth.
Extirpation
Disappearance of a species from a defined geographic area.
Fan
Relatively smooth, fan-like, depositional feature normally sloping away from the outer termination of a canyon or canyon system.
Fauna
Animals; covering both invertebrates and vertebrates.
Fetch
The unobstructed distance of ocean over which wind or waves can travel.
Fines
Small particles such as sand and silt.
Fjord
A long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between steep slopes, formed by glacial erosion. Also spelled "fiord".
Floodplain
A strip of relatively flat and normally dry land alongside a stream, river, or lake that is covered by water during a flood.
Food web
A term used to describe the food relationships between members of a community.
Founder effects
Consequence of founding parents genes for their progeny. If only a few founders, the species may be considered to have gone through a genetic 'bottleneck'.
Fragmentation
The breakup of an area of habitat such that what was one population of a species is now several disconnected populations which may consequently be at greater risk of extirpation.
Frequency range (Hz)
The wavelength of sound measures in Hertz (Hz).
Front
A vertical hydrographic boundary between two water masses which are distinguished by their temperature, salinity and/or productivity.
Gamma-diversity
The total number of species in a large geographic area. See alpha- and beta-diversity.
Gene flow
Exchange of genes within a population or between populations that reduces genetic diversity.
Genetic drift
Accumulation of random mutations of alleles over time with consequent change in genetic make-up.
Geodiversity
The natural range (diversity) of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils) geomorphological (land forms, processes) and soil (sediment) features. It includes their assemblages, relationships, properties, interpretations and systems (gray, 2004).
Geophysical anomaly
An abrupt change in the geophysical features of the seabed, potentially associated with wrecks and archaeological sites.
Geophysics
The study of the physics of the earth. Geophysical survey techniques use physical properties themselves (e.g. Magnetism) or apply properties to see how the earth affects them (e.g. Radar), to determine something about the earth structure.
Glacial outwash
Deposits of material washed out from glaciers by rivers.
Glaciation
The presence of glaciers.
Granulometry
Determination of particle size composition of sediments.
Gravel
Sediment grains 4 to 16 mm diameter.
Gregarious
The behaviour of animals that live in groups, but can survive singly.
Groynes
Breakwaters used to reduce the rate of transport of beach deposits.
Guild
An association or classification for a group of species, often not taxonomically related, that share or use a resource in a similar way (e.g. Sediment living macrofauna, gelatinous zooplankton). Also used about unrelated animals using a shared food resource.
Gullies
Narrow channels of one to tens of metres in width, created by moving water.
Guyot
Seamount having a comparatively smooth flat top formed by wave erosion, coral reef growth, or aerial erosion and subsequent subsidence below the sea level.
Habitat
Environment where an individual, species or group or species live that can be repeatedly found in nature.
Hadal
Pertaining to depths of the ocean greater than 6000 meters.
Hadopelagic
Open water habitat of the hadal region. Below the abyssal.
Harbour
Inlet with a port facility.
Haul-out site
A site where seals come onto the shore or sandbanks.
Hole
Local circular depression, often steep sided, of the sea floor.
Holocene
Period of geologic time extending from the end of the Pleistocene period around 10,000 years ago up to the Present.
Hydrocarbon seep
Feature of the seafloor where hydrocarbons are being released through the seabed sediments.
Hydrodynamic processes
Processes associated with waves, tides and currents.
Hydrothermal vent
A hot water spring on the ocean floor.
Hyperbenthos
Animals that live close to the seabed but are not usually on it (i.e. Epibenthos, epifauna) or in it (i.e. Endobenthos, infauna). Typically used about crustaceans. The term demersal is used about fish.
Immigration
Arrival of organisms to a place, which may result in their establishment (colonization).
In situ material
Material in an undisturbed condition on the seabed.
Infauna
Animals living within sediments.
Infralittoral
Always submerged, below the low-tide within the euphotic zone. Rocky seabed dominated by algae, and variable water column temperature.
Inlet
Semi-enclosed area of coast. Related terms include sea lough (ireland), sealoch (scotland), fjord, fjiard, ria, voe.
Inquiline
Animals that live within another organisms but are not considered parasitic. Similar to commensal ("living with") but usually used where the relationship has yet to be determined.
Inshore
Generally within 5 Km of coastline and < 50 m depth. Same as coastal seas.
Interstitial
Organisms living in the space between grains of sediments. See also meiofauna.
Intertidal zone
The area between the high-water mark and low-water mark that is submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide. Often used synonymous with seashore.
Island biogeographic theory
Holds that the number of species in a location is a result of the interaction between the number colonizing and going extinct, such that that islands that are larger and near a mainland source for colonist will have more species than smaller and more remote or isolated islands. This balance between colonization and extinction is also termed 'Species equlibrium theory'.
Island biogeography (theory of)
The number of species present on an island is proportional to island area and its distance offshore from the mainland. Small remote islands generally have poorer species diversity than large, mainland-proximal islands.
Island
Land surrounded by water.
Knoll
Relatively small (500 to 1000 m tall) isolated elevation of a rounded shape; a small seamount. Larger than a sea-hill.
Knot
A speed of one nautical mile (nm) per hour.
Lagoon
Sheltered inlet separated from the sea at most low tides; commonly used for reef-enclosed water masses.
Latitudinal gradients
Changes in the richness of species with latitude.
Littoral
Between upper and lower tidemarks, exposed to air at the lowest tides. In marine ecology is equivalent to intertidal and seashore. In wider literature may refer to coastal land and subtidal areas down to 200m.
Littoral drift
The net movement of material along the shore under the influence of prevailing waves and currents.
Macro-ecology
Ecological patterns across geographic areas.
Macrofauna
Fauna typically retained on a 1 mm sieve, visible but not usually identifiable to species level by eye.
Magnetometer
Also known as a fluxgate gradiometer. A remote sensing instrument capable of identifying sub surface archaeological features by measuring the difference in their magnetic properties against the surrounding soils.
Managed retreat
Areas where the sea is allowed to inundate sites formerly protected by sea defences.
Marine Aggregates
Sand and gravel deposits on the seabed.
Marine Protected Area (MPA)
Defined by the IUCN as "any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment".
Megafauna
Large animals easily identified by eye without magnification; e.g. mammals, birds, fish, sharks, turtles, lobsters, starfish. Larger than macrofauna.
Meiofauna
Fauna retained on a 0.1 mm or 67 micron sieve but that pass through a 1 mm sieve. Smaller than macrofauna.
Mesolithic
Middle stone age period ('middle stone age') .
Mesopelagic
Refering to the poorly lit open water habitat below the epipelagic (euphotic) and above the bathypelagic; see also dysphotic.
Metapopulation
A population that exists in a connected complex of spatially discrete populations, such as in habitat fragments.
Microfauna
Bacteria and small unicellular organisms not visible to the naked eye or retained on standard sieves. Must be removed from sample or cultivated).
Mid-domain effect
Holds that the environment constrains species ranges such that more ranges will overlap in the tropics, and thus more species will occur there.
Mitigation
Measures to minimize, reduce or eliminate impacts.
Mud
Sediment grains < 0.063 mm diameter. Includes silt and clay.
Multibeam data
Bathymetric and backscattered data derived from multibeam echo sounder (MBES).
Narrows,
Narrow channels of water forming the entrance to inlets, often with shallow sills and called Rapids.
Neap tide
The minimum amplitude of the tide (each 14 days between the full and new moon).
Nekton
An aquatic organism, such as whales, turtles, fish, squid, and krill (euphausiids), that can swim powerfully enough to move against currents.
Neolithic
Later stone age period ('new stone age'). Part of the Holocene.
Neritic
Pertaining to the water column overlying the continental shelf.
Net transport
The residual movement of sediment after its oscillatory movement on tidal currents, or under the influence of waves.
Neuston
The collection of organisms living on the sea surface (epineuston) or within the top 20cm of the surface (hyponeuston).
Niche
The range of environmental conditions (such as temperature, salinity, nutrients) within which a species can exist and reproduce. Sometimes defined as everything a species is or does. The preferred (or fundamental) niche is the one in which the species performs best in the absence of competition or interference from extraneous factors.
Noise
Defined as unwanted sound and is usually measured in dB(A).
Nursery ground
And area of importance for juvenile animals and plants, and maybe such to many species.
Occupancy
The time spent in a particular area by a dredger.
Oceanic
Referring to the open ocean, away from coastal waters.
Offshore
Stable water column characteristics (stenothermal, stenohaline), permanently stratified, beyond zone of freshwater influence, without benthic algae, generally > 5 km from the coastline.
Omnivore
Animal that eats both animal and plant food.
Open coast
Any part of coast not an island or inlet.
Overburden
Deposits (often sand) deposited on top of local sediments.
Overfalls
Areas of rough water where eaves are generated by sudden changes in seabed topography, such as sandbanks and deeps.
Oxygen minimum zone
Area of ocean with seasonal or permanently low oxygen conditions.
Palaeolithic
Earlier stone age period ('old stone age').
Palimpsest
Sediment that exhibits attributes of a previous depositional environment, but also attributes of the modern environment.
Parasitic
Organisms that feed on a host but do not normally lead to its death.
Parthenogenic
Female animals that can produce fertile eggs without fertilization from sperm.
Pebble
Sediment grains 4 mm to 64 mm diameter basd on the Cailleux and Wentworth classification.
Pelagic
Of, relating to or living in the water column of seas and oceans (as distinct from benthic).
Phanerogame meadow
Extended or patchy areas of seagrassin the Mediterranean Sea colonized by the phanerogame plants Posidonia oceanica (L.), and/or Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria), In other areas formed by the seagrasses Posidonia, Zostera, or related species.
Phototrophic
Organisms (chemoautotrophs) that generate energy using sunlight. See chemoautotroph.
Physiognomy
The apparent characteristics, outward features, or appearance of ecological communities often characterized by dominant species.
Physiography
The physical geography of the land and seabed. See terrain, topography.
Phytoplankton
Microscopic free-floating plants that drift in sunlit surface waters.
Pinnacle
High tower or spire-shaped pillar of rock or coral, alone or cresting a summit. It may extend above the surface of the water. It may or may not be a hazard to surface navigation.
Plankton
The collection of organisms, often microscopic, that are suspended freely in the water column; they may drift passively or cannot move against the horizontal motion of the water.
Plateau
Flat or nearly flat area of considerable extent, dropping off abruptly on one or more sides.
Pleistocene
Epoch of geologic time during the Quaternary period extending from the end of Pliocene epoch around 2.6 million years ago up to the beginning of the Holocene epoch, 10,000 years ago.
Pleuston
The collection of organisms that live on the ocean surface.
Pockmarks
Small (1-10's m) circular depressions in the seafloor caused by the release of a gas or liquid (e.g. Hydrocarbon seeps).
Polynya
From the Russian word for "lake", an area of open water surrounded by sea ice.
Primary production
Production of organic matter by converting light or chemical energy from primary materials, such as photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.
Progradation
Reworking of the sediment by waves and currents towards deeper ocean due to sea level fall.
Quaternary
Period of geologic time extending from the end of Pliocene epoch around 2.6 million years ago up to the present; collective term for the Holocene and Pleistocene epochs.
Rapoport's rule
That species geographic ranges increase with latitude and elevation (and perhaps depth), and thus there are more species in the tropics.
Realm
A large geographic area dominated by particular organisms.
Recolonisation
The re-establishment of marine populations in an area from which they had been lost.
Recruitment
The influx of new members into a population by either reproduction or immigration.
Reef(s)
Hard substrata raised from the seabed that provide a substratum and/or cover for marine life. May be formed by rocks, coral, shells, tube-worms, and other organisms. Also, used in navigation to refer to hard substrata that may be a hazard to boats.
Reef ridge
Long, narrow elevation with steep sides composed of live or dead coral.
Relaxation effect
The consequence of habitat fragmentation that splits populations such that some are extirpated, and thus the species richness declines following fragmentation. Island Biogeographic Theory predicts a loss of species richness due to smaller habitat area.
Relaxation time
The time required for species and populations to adjust to changed environmental conditions.
Relict
Sediments that were originally deposited under different environmental conditions than those occurring today. See also "palimpsest".; The term is also used about relict populations of a species "trapped" in an environment that is a 'relict' of a former more widespread environmental conditions that allowed the species a wider distribution range.
Relief
The variation in the elevation (or depth) of the seafloor.
Ridge
(a) Long, narrow elevation with steep sides. (b) Long, narrow elevation often separating ocean basins. (c) Linked major mid-oceanic mountain systems of global extent.
Rock
Ecologically is a 'hard substrata' with an epibiota but where infauna is absent or rare.
Rough ground
Areas of seabed where there are boulders or biogenic reefs.
Rugosity
The roughness or irregular texture of the seabed.
Saddle
Broad pass, resembling in shape a riding saddle, in a ridge or between contiguous seamounts.
Sand
Sediment grains 0.063 mm to 2 mm diameter.
Sand dunes
Mounds of sand created by wind-driven processes.
Sand waves
Seabed 'sand dunes' that may be static or move under the influence of waves and tides and are perpendicular to the current. Smaller features are called megaripples and ripples.
Scavenger
Animals that feed on dead animal material, and sometimes also drift algae.
Sea-hill
A seabed feature elevated more than 100m high from the surrounding seabed. Smaller than a knoll and seamount.
Seamount
Large isolated elevation, greater than 1000 m in relief above the sea floor, characteristically of volcanic origin and conical form.
Seascapes
Undersea landscapes. Topographic features that reoccur geographically (e.g. Seamounts, estuaries, canyons, plains).
Sedentary
Animals that do not normally move, but can if required (e.g. Sea anemones, mussels).
Sediment
Ecologically are so-called 'soft substrata' with infauna, and usually some epibiota.
Sediment processes
Processes that affect the movement of sediments.
Sediment sink
A site where there is a net accumulation of sediment.
Sediment transport
Movement of sediment in the water column or on seabed.
Seismic data
Data derived from seismic surveys of the seabed.
Sessile
Animals attached to the substratum.
Shoal
Offshore hazard to surface navigation that is composed of unconsolidated material such as gravel or shell.
Side scan sonar
A remote-sensing method of identifying seabed features based on sonar surveys using low angles of incidence.
Sill
Sea floor barrier of relatively shallow depth restricting water movement between basins adjacent. In oceanography, the sill depth signifies the depth of water that a water mass must achieve in order to pass between basins.
Silt
Particles of between 0.0039 mm to 0.0625 mm in diameter. Larger than clay, smaller than sand. Mud is comprised of clay and silt.
Sonar
Derived from the phrase "sound navigation and ranging"; method or equipment for determining the water depth by underwater sound (echolocation).
Sound
A deep sea area, often with strong currents, between island and mainland or between islands.
Speciation
Process of a species being formed from other species.
Species richness
The number of species that occurs in an area or on a particular substrate etc.
Species saturation
The idea from Island Biogeography Theory that the number of species in an area has a maximum determined by the race of local colonization and extinction; such that if a new species becomes established then an existing species will go extinct.
Species turnover
The change in species composition over time and/or space. See betadiversity.
Spray zone
Area of upper seashore not submerged at high tide but sprayed at high tide by seawater. See splash zone.
Spring tide
The maximum amplitude of the tide (each 14 days corresponding with the new and full moon).
Stenohaline
Organisms tolerant of a narrow range of salinities. The opposite of euryhaline.
Stepping stones
Small areas of habitat that enable a species to disperse across otherwise unsuitable environment.
Storm surge
A major rise in sea level above the normal range due to episodic events such as low pressure and high winds.
Strait
A gap between an island and the mainland, or two headlands.
Strandline
Area of upper seashore where loose seaweed and other floating debris is deposited by the falling tide.
Stratified
In water, where one or more horizontally extended water masses lie on top of each other. They are separated by boundaries based on differences in temperature (thermocline), density (pycnocline) and/or salinity (halocline). See also Front.
Subduction zone
Adjacent to active plate margins, a place where ocean crust collides with and is subducted beneath continental crust or another ocean to create a ridge and ocean trench complex.
Sublittoral
Below the littoral, never exposed to air. Same as subtidal. Includes the infra- and circa-littoral.
Sublittoral fringe
Transition zone where littoral and sublittoral species occur, sometimes determined by differences in neap and spring low tides.
Substrate
Substance used as a food source by organisms or enzymes.
Substratum (a)
Surface (singular) to which an organism grows on or amongst. Substrata is plural.
Sunken wood
Wood on the seabed.
Supralittoral
Uppermost part of shore affected by wave splash but not regularly submerged by the sea. Also called the supratidal, epilittoral, splashzone, spray zone, littoral fringe, and strandline.
Surrogate
A measurable entity that is used to represent, or substitute for, a more complex element of biodiversity that is more difficult to measure.
Suspension feeding
Animals that feed on water-borne particulate material, which may include plankton.
Swale
A low lying marshy area, such as between sand dunes.
Symbiotic
Organisms that both mutually benefit from their association.
Sympatric speciation
Species that evolve within the same geographic area, perhaps due to specialization on different food resources or seasonal differences in growth or reproduction.
Taxon (taxa)
A distinct category of organism at any level in the taxonomic hierarchy from species to family to kingdom.
Terrace
Relatively flat horizontal or gently inclined surface, sometimes long and narrow, which is bounded by a steeper ascending slope on one side and by a steeper descending slope on the opposite side.
Terrain
The physical land surface and seabed.
Terrigenous
Derived from the land, as in terrigenous sediment. Usually siliciclastic rather than calcareous or calciclastic.
Tidal range
The amplitude of the tides in a particular area.
Topography
The form, relief, shape and texture of the earth's surface, including the seabed.
Trench
Long, narrow, characteristically "V"-shaped in section, very deep and asymmetrical depression of the sea floor, with relatively steep sides.
Trophic level
The position of an organism in the food chain or "food pyramid," determined by the number of transfers of energy that occur between the nonliving energy source and that level.
Trough
Long depression of the sea floor characteristically flat bottomed and steep sided and normally shallower than a trench.
Tsunami
A very fast moving oceanic wave, initiated by an underwater disturbance, such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption or slumping (Japanese for "harbor wave").
Tubiculous
Animals that live in tubes.
Turbidity current
Dense mixture of suspended sediment and water that flows down-slope under the influence of gravity. Normally constrained to the continental slope and attributed to the formation of submarine canyons.
Upwelling
An oceanographic process by which water rises from the lower depths upwards into shallow surface waters.
Vagile
Animals that move around.
Vagrant
Animals outside of their normal habitat or environment. They may be searching for new habitats or mates.
Valley
Relatively shallow, wide depression, the bottom of which usually has a continuous gradient. This term is generally not used for features that have canyon-like characteristics for a significant portion of their extent.
Vicariance
The geographic separation of a population or biota by climatic and/or geological events, typically resulting in the formation of new species.
Water mass
A volume of water that has defined salinity and/or temperature characteristics.
Wave refraction
Modification of the angle of waves by seabed features.
Wave rose
A method of showing the size and direction of waves based on the frequency of occurrence in different quadrants of the compass.
Whale carcasse
Dead body of a whale.
Winnowing
Removal of fine material from coarse ones by winds or currents.
Zones
Horizontal areas of vertical height above, and depth below, sea level which have characteristic fauna and flora. Also called étage.
Zooplankton
planktonic animals; i.e. animals that live in the plankton and which are unable to move against regional currents.