Hiding just out of sight beneath the blue surface of the Channel Islands National Park’s ocean waters lies one of the most astonishing collections of marine life on the planet. Towering kelp forests shelter over 1,000species of animals and plants. Rocky reefs, exploding with life—from the tiniest invertebrates to lumbering giant black sea bass and prowling great white sharks—also dot the submarine landscape. Eelgrass beds, interspersed with sandy bottom area, act as nursery areas for numerous fish species. And the structures of deep submarine canyons and towering pinnacles attract animals looking for shelter, as well as those looking for a meal.
Part of the reason the Channel Islands’ underwater habitats are so rich with life is that they lie between two extremely diverse biogeographic provinces (the Oregonian and the Californian), and so include the myriad of marine species from both. These organisms thrive here as they are fed by the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water, and are somewhat protected by their distance from the mainland. Despite how remote they are, harvest, invasive species, and pollution are still threats.
Did You Know?
Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island is one of the world’s largest known sea caves. The cave measures 1215 feet in length (the size of more than four football fields), has a 160 foot entrance, and is almost 100 feet wide.