Plants, Algae, Plankton

 Plants (algaes and flowering plants) are an important part of both the intertidal and subtidal ecosystems.  Their presence provides food and shelter, as well as oxygen, to the wide variety of vertebrates and invertebrates found here.  They are the base to many food webs linked to all species.  Plankton are any organisms that live in the water column and are incapable of swimming against a current.  They provide a crucial food source for large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales.

 

     
 Phytoplankton    
 Phytoplankton Description: Microscopic plants and diatoms that drift on the ocean currents instead of swimming. They live closer to the water surface where there is sufficient light to support photosynthesis. These tiny plants, comprised of single cells, or chains of cells, form the basis of the marine ecosystem.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes (makes own food) using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Often by simple cellular division.  
 Fun Facts: A single glass of water from Puget Sound can contain millions of individual phytoplankton.  
   

 

Zooplankton

   
 Zooplankton Description: These tiny animals are often the larval forms of many of the marine invertebrates which we are already familiar with, such as crabs. At top center is a larval crab. Along with phytoplankton, they help form the basis of the marine food web and ecosystem.  
 Food: These tiny animals eat both phytoplankton and each other!  
 Reproduction: Often develop through many larval life-stages on the way to reaching maturity.  
 Fun Facts: A single glass of water from Puget Sound can contain thousands of individual zooplankton.  
   

 

Eelgrass

 

(Zostera marina)

 
 Eelgrass Description: Eelgrass beds made of long grass-like blades and roots in thick patches can be found growing on sandy or muddy sea floors. Dark green in color. Eelgrass beds tend to grow in the spring and summer, and retreat in the winter. Blades to 36 in (91 cm).  
 Food: Photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: System of creeping rhizomes and roots or flowers with pollen.  
 Fun Facts: Eelgrass is important for several reasons: 1) Stabilizes the bottom sediment, 2) Provides habitat for a variety of plants and animals, 3) Food for variety of plants and animals, and 4) Enriches water with decaying organic material.  
   

 

Bull Kelp

 

(Nereocystis luetkeana)

 
 Bull Kelp Description: Long, slender rope-like stipe ends in a swollen float from which spread two groups of broad, flat blades. Root-like holdfast secures it to the bottom. Bull kelp growing season is from spring until fall, and can grow up to 80 ft (24 m) or more. Large tangles are washed ashore by winter storms.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Alternate generations. The asexual phase (sporophyte) produces microscopic spores. From the spore the sexual phase (gametophyte) develops very small male and female algaes.  
 Fun Facts: Forms beautiful subtidal kelp forest that are important for several reasons: 1) Habitat for many plants and animals, 2) Provide food for many plants and animals, 3) Coastal Indians used the hollow bulbs as water vessels, or the long stipe as rope, 4) Current industrial use of kelp is for the alginate they contain. Alginate is used in ice cream, baked goods, frosting, dairy products, synthetic rubber, paints, pharmaceutical products, and as food for people and animals.  
   

 

Laminaria

 

(Laminaria saccharina)

 
 Laminaria Description: Mature algae has two rows of raised or lowered patches running length of blade. Has root-like holdfast and short stipe.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Alternate generations. The asexual phase (sporophyte) produces microscopic spores. From the spore the sexual phase (gametophyte) develops very small male and female algaes.  
 Fun Facts: Also known as "sugar wrack" due to its sweet taste. It contains mannitol (a form of sugar).  
   

 

Rockweed

 

(Fucus gardneri)

 
 Rockweed Description: Blade tips are Y-shaped and greenish to yellowish-brown. Grows in the upper levels of the intertidal zone on rocks.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: The swollen tips are receptacles that produce reproductive gametes.  
 Fun Facts: The swollen receptacles have a male organ and a female organ that release egg and sperm into the water.  
   

 

Scytosiphon

 

(Scytosiphon lomentaria)

 
 Scytosiphon Description: Slender tubes or spirals. Light olive to dark brown. Found on rocky intertidal beaches. Length up to 20 in (51 cm).  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: The male and female gamete-producing reproductive organs broadcast gametes into the water where they fertilize and go through additional portions of this complex life cycle. This reproductive cycle is especially interesting because this algae is photosensitive in its reproduction (sensitive to sunlight).  
 Fun Facts: This species is often found where there is a substantial amount of fresh water seeping down onto the rocks.  
   

 

Turkish Towel

 

(Chondracanthus exasperata)

 
 Turkish Towel Description: Broad thick blades covered with hundreds of stiff pimple-like bumps. Is dark purplish-red in color. Grows on subtidal rocks. Specimens washed up on local beaches usually broken off from holdfast. Blades up to 3 ft (91 cm) long.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  

 Reproduction: Triphasic life cycle. The male and female gamete-producing reproductive organs broadcast gametes into the water where they fertilize and go through additional portions of this complex life cycle.

 
 Fun Facts: Good source of carrageenan, a substance used as a stabilizer in many products ranging from cottage cheese to printer’s ink to facial creams. This seaweed is a perennial that dies back in the winter and grows again in the spring.  
   

 

Iridescent Seaweed

 

(Iridea cordata)

 
 Iridescent Seaweed Description: Broad, slippery, rubbery blades with a bluish iridescence in water.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Triphasic life cycle. The male and female gamete-producing reproductive organs broadcast gametes into the water where they fertilize and go through additional portions of this complex life cycle.  
 Fun Facts: Good source of carrageenan, a substance used as a stabilizer in many products ranging from cottage cheese to printer’s ink to facial creams. This seaweed is a perennial that dies back in the winter and grows again in the spring.  
   

 

Sea Lettuce

 

(Ulva fenestrata)

 
 Sea Lettuce Description: Thin, bright green, transparent sheets or tube-like strings that are attached to the sea floor, on pilings, or floating in the water. Blade length to 6 in (15 cm).  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Alternate generations. The asexual phase (sporophyte) produces microscopic spores. From the spore the sexual phase (gametophyte) develops very small male and female algaes. Some cells may also be able to slough off in stressful situations and form new algae.  
 Fun Facts: This seaweed is only two cells thick.  
   

 

Epiphytic Algae

 

(Monostroma kornmannia)

 
 Epiphytic Algea Description: Resembles sea lettuce in manner of growth but only one cell thick. Grows on the blades of eelgrass.  
 Food: Absorbs minerals and carbon dioxide directly from the seawater and photosynthesizes using sunlight.  
 Reproduction: Alternate generations. The asexual phase (sporophyte) produces microscopic spores. From the spore the sexual phase (gametophyte) develops very small male and female algaes. Some cells may also be able to slough off in stressful situations and form new algae.  
 Fun Facts: Only one cell thick.