The benthic zone is the area near to the bottom of river, lake or sea. Most of the plants found there are algae and seagrasses, which are also called phytobenthos.
Phytobenthos will occur more often in the superior levels of the benthic zone, since they depend on the sun for photosynthesis.
These organisms are microscopic, unicellular or filamentous. Microphytobenthos normally live in sedimentary shores, according to Wehr and Sheath in the book "Freshwater Algae of North America: Ecology and Classification."
Common microphytobenthos species living on the bottom of North-American rivers, lakes and sea coasts include:
According to the 4Seas Project, macrophytobenthos include green algae (Chlorophyceae), brown algae (Phaeophyceae), red algae (Rhodophyceae), and plants of the family Potamogetonaceae.
These algae or seaweeds are rich in chlorophyll that gives their characteristic color. They can live in the benthic zone as individuals or colonies. These are common species:
Zostera marina (eelgrass)
Ulva lactuca (sea lettuce)
Codium fragile (spongeweed)
The dominance of the pigment xanthophyll determines the brown color of these algae. According to Michael Guiry’s Seaweed Site, there are about 1800 species of brown algae, most living in marine environments. Some examples:
Fucus vesiculosus (bladderwrack)
Ascophyllum nodosum (Norwegian kelp)
Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp)
There are 6000 described species of red algae, as stated in Michael Guiry’s Seaweed Site. The red color results from the pigments phycoerythrin and phycocyanin. Examples include:
Palmaria palmata (dulse)
Chondrus crispus (Irish moss)
Mastocarpus stellatus (false Irish moss)
Potamogeton, the only family of macrophytobenthos able to produce flowers and fruit, is the largest genus. Some species:
Zannichellia palustris (horned pondweed)
Potamogeton pectinatus (fennel pondweed)
- "Marine Biology: A Derivative of the Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences"; John H. Steele; 2009
- Wiser: Macrophytes and phytobenthos
- "Freshwater Algae of North America: Ecology and Classification"; John D. Wehr, Robert G. Sheath;2002
- 4Seas: Phythobenthos
- Michael Guiry’s Seaweed Site
- Photo Credit seaweed image by Kevin McGrath from Fotolia.com
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