Marine habitats at Kew Gardens
The Marine Aquarium recreates four major marine habitats:
These are among the most unique, complex and productive habitats on the planet. Reef-building corals are animals - coral polyps - most of which obtain some of their nutrients from minute algae in their tissues. The polyps extract calcium from seawater and excrete it to form their chalky external skeletons, which create the reef.
Human intervention, such as industrial scale prawn fishing and even uncontrolled tourism, together with natural disasters can threaten the fine balance of these often fragile ecosystems.
Estuaries and salt marshes
This is where rivers meet the sea, they are fertile and productive tracts with their own communities of hardy and vigorous 'pioneer' plants. Pioneer plants stabilise mud and silt, raising the mud level and eventually, as other species arrive and the cycle continues, dry land appears.
These are the tropical equivalents of salt marshes and have evolved their own flora and fauna for the local conditions. Estuaries, salt marshes and mangrove swamps, by their very nature, positioned between land and sea are highly adaptable habitats of constant change and development. They provide vital nurseries for fish and other marine life.
They can be found at the base of cliffs, of which the British Isles have many miles, are among the best habitats for highly productive populations of seaweeds. Different seaweeds are adapted to surviving in distinct zones with other plants and animals. The tidal regime -- the depth and reach of the tides -- together with the topography and geology of the shoreline, determine which seaweed thrives where.