photo of fish and coral

Welcome to the National Marine Sanctuaries Ecosystems section. Here we will describe and discuss a habitat present in one or more of the national marine sanctuaries.

photo of kelp forest

Kelp Forests

Kelp forests grow predominantly on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska and Canada to the waters of Baja California. Tiered like a terrestrial rainforest with a canopy and several layers below, the kelp forests of the eastern Pacific coast are dominated by two canopy-forming, brown macroalgae species, giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana).

Giant kelp, perhaps the most recognized species of brown macroalgae, forms the more southern kelp forests, from the southern Channel Islands, California to northwestern Baja.

photo of coral reef

Coral Reefs

Coral reef ecosystems are among the oldest and most diverse on Earth. Along with their wealth of biological diversity and aesthetic value, coral reefs have substantial economic value. Reef systems serve as barriers protecting many coastal populations and developments from storm damage; they support commercial fisheries; they serve as major tourist attractions; and they hold the possibility of unimagined medicinal compounds in the diverse life forms within them. As unique and valuable as these ecosystems are, they have become one of the most threatened coastal ecosystems.