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Channel Islands: Habitats

This satellite image illustrates the temperature variation in the Northern Channel Islands. Temperature ranges are represented as follows: blue = 44-52º F, green-yellow = 56-64º F, and orange-red = 65-72º F. image for more... (photo: Channel Islands NMS)

Anacapa, closest to the mainland, is composed of 3 small islets connected by shallow sandbars. The western slopes are the primary West Coast nesting site for the brown pelican. (photo: Shane Anderson)

Santa Cruz is the largest of the northern Channel Islands, boasting the most diverse of habitats in the sanctuary. The coastline has steep cliffs, gigantic sea caves, coves, and sandy beaches. (photo: Shane Anderson)

Santa Rosa is the second largest in the northern chain with sandy beaches, rocky terraces, and vast grasslands. It's surrounding waters serve as an invaluable nursery for the sea life that feeds larger marine mammals and seabirds. (photo: Glenn Allen)

San Miguel is the westernmost island, strongly influenced by wind and weather. The colder waters here support a distinct group of fish and invertebrates that are not found on the southern islands. (photo: Glenn Allen)

Santa Barbara Island is the smallest island within the Sanctuary and home of a large sea lion rookery and seabird nesting colonies. (photo: Shane Anderson)

The tidepools are an area diverse with life forms. Sea anenomes, shell fish, small fish, octopi, crabs, and algae are common residents. The distribution of organisms is dependant on water level, temperature, and competition between species. (photo: Channel Islands NMS)

Surfgrass is a critical member of the intertidal community providing a nursery habitat for many species of fish and invertabrates. Survival of the seedlings requires algae to enable root establishment. Once disturbed, it is difficult to regrow. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara are exploring new techniques to help restore damaged surfgrass populations. (photo: J. Scott Bull)

Adjacent to the intertidal zone is the deeper, subtidal zone where kelp forests emerge. The kelp provides fish, like this Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus), and invertebrates with protection from predators. It also provides homes for molluscs, crustaceans and worms and is a food source for many species. (photo: Kip Evans)

Rocky reefs are important habitat types found throughout the Sanctuary. The reef provides food, shelter, and attachment sites for many seaweeds, invertebrates and fish. The reproductive blades, called sporophyll, are located near the base of the giant kelp plant (Mycrocystis pyrifera) just above the holdfast. (photo: Shane Anderson)

The red gorgonian (Lophogorgia chilensis) is a filter-feeding colonial species that lives on the rocky bottom at depths between 15-61 meters (50 to 200 feet). Gorgonians are oriented at right angles to prevailing water currents to capture plankton as they drift by. It provides a habitat for the ovulid snail and zooanthid anemone. (photo: Shane Anderson)

Many marine organisms use the nooks and crannies of rock formations for protection from predators like the octopus. The elusive octopus relies on the nooks and crannies of the rocky reef to sneak up on potential prey items image for more...(photo: Kip Evans)

Another habitat common in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is the sandy bottom. Sandy and muddy bottom provides a perfect habitat for the burrowing tube anemones (Pachycerianthus fimbriatus) and brittle stars. When startled, the tube anemone will quickly retract into its tube to evade potential predators. (photo: Shane Anderson)

A sandy bottom also provides the perfect hiding place for certain kinds of fish. Flatfish like the halibut (Paralichthys californicus) bury themselves in the sandy bottom and rely on their disruptive color patterns to blend in with the ocean floor. (photo: Shane Anderson)

We don't often think of the open water as "habitat" but many species live all or part of their life in the open water. Planktonic jellyfish Medusae drift in the water column and move short distances by contracting the muscles within the bell-like structure image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

Ctenophores, like this Beroe species are often found accompanying swarms of medusae in the water column. Commonly called "comb jellies", these open water inhabitants use hair-like projections called cilia to move through the water. They are also carnivorous, feasting on image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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