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  • Rocky coastal scene by a forest, Auckland Islands.
    Rights: Dr Rebecca McLeod Published 19 July 2021 Size: 370 KB Referencing Hub media

    All the living things that make their homes at the beach rely on that environment for their basic needs – food and shelter.

    Plants and their food

    Through the process of photosynthesis, plants in the water, as on land, produce their own food in the form of starches and sugars, so they are called producers. They can access carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and oxygen for respiration from the water.

    Animals and their food

    Herbivorous and carnivorous animals are part of a group of animals known as consumers. Their food webs begin with the plants of the ocean; microscopic algae such as phytoplankton. Zooplankton graze on this ‘pasture of the sea’. These two forms of plankton form the basic food for all beach community animals.

    A place to live

    Plants and animals at the beach, like living things everywhere, need shelter to survive. A range of environmental factors make life at the beach challenging: wave action, tide, drying effects of the Sun, wind, particles of salt, periodic covering and uncovering by water and changing salinity levels, not to mention predators.

    Their shelter is a combination of their physical surroundings and the protective mechanisms they have developed that suit these conditions. Their shelter must be located near their food, so each type of living thing tends to live in a defined habitat in a specific zone on the beach.

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    Image: Intertidal zone, Auckland Island, Dr Rebecca McLeod.

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