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Infographic: Canada's ocean habitats from surface to seafloor

Release date: March 2021
Infographic: Canada's ocean habitats from surface to seafloor
Description: Canada's ocean habitats from surface to seafloor

This diagram shows a central illustration of the ocean water column from nearshore to offshore and from sea surface to the deep ocean sea floor. Boxes are highlighted around six diverse habitats found in Canada’s oceans, which are linked to six boxes, three on each side of the main illustration. A red flag icon is shown on many of the boxed habitats indicating an ecosystem stressor is present.

The main illustration shows a coastline at top left of the graphic including a river, estuary, and runoff into the ocean from erosion. A phytoplankton bloom is shown at the water surface with zooplankton underneath. The graphic shows the shelf habitat from nearshore to offshore sloping from left to right. On the shelf are various demersal and benthic habitats with illustrations of eelgrass, kelp and coral and sponges. On the right side of the graphic is open ocean habitat (pelagic) moving from sea surface to deeper water. A two sided arrow is shown at the far right of the main illustration indicating the change in ocean chemistry between the surface and deep waters.

The top left box shows the intertidal zone and is linked to the nearshore area of the main illustration. Runoff is shown coming from a river on shore with a red flag icon nearby. The middle left box shows eelgrass habitat and is linked to the eelgrass icons in the main illustration. Crabs are damaging the eelgrass in the boxed illustration alongside a red flag icon. The bottom left box shows kelp forest habitat and is linked to the kelp icons in the main illustration. In the habitat box, one side of the kelp in the illustration damaged alongside a red flag icon.

The top right box shows seamount habitat and is linked to the shallower portion of the deep water of the main illustration. Three arrows are shown moving upwards from the deep onto the seamount indicating a changing oxygen level. A red flag is in the corner of the seamount box. The middle right box shows coral and sponge habitat and is linked to a deeper portion of the main illustration. Fishing gear is shown damaging coral and sponge habitat alongside a red flag icon. The bottom right box shows vents and seeps and is linked to the deepest part of the main illustration. The vents and seeps box includes illustrations of tubeworms and microbes in a dark environment.


Canada’s ocean habitats from surface to seafloor

Species and ecosystems depend on healthy habitats, but many important habitats are struggling due to climate change, invasive species, and other stressors.

Intertidal Zone

Erosion, runoff, excess nutrients

Intertidal habitat provides food for many species, including humans


Invasive European green crabs

Eelgrass is a nursery habitat for young cod, salmon, and herring

Kelp forest

Warming water and invasive species

Rich in biodiversity, kelp forests play a major role in absorbing carbon dioxide

Coral and sponge

Fishing equipment damages habitat

Corals and sponges provide important habitat and are slow to recover


Zone of deep, low-oxygen water is expanding and threatening habitat

Pacific seamounts provide unique offshore habitat and food sources

Vents and seeps

Diverse microbes

Hydrothermal vents are dynamic habitats with extremes in temperature and chemistry

River, Estuary, Erosion, Runoff

Phytoplankton bloom


Shelf \ Deep Ocean

Pelagic – in open water

Demersal – Just above seafloor

Benthic – on seafloor

Surface water
High oxygen, more light, less salty, warmer, nutrients used

Deeper water
Layers with various temperatures and salinity, nutrients stored

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