The ocean is a continuous body of salt water that is relatively uniform in chemical composition. It is a weak solution of mineral salts and decayed biological matter. Within the ocean, coral reefs are a second type of marine biome. Estuaries, coastal areas where salt water and fresh water mix, form a third unique marine biome.
The ocean is categorized by several zones (Figure20.28). All of the ocean’s open water is referred to as the pelagic realm (or zone). The benthic realm (or zone) extends along the ocean bottom from the shoreline to the deepest parts of the ocean floor. From the surface to the bottom or the limit to which photosynthesis occurs is the photic zone(approximately 200 m or 650 ft). At depths greater than 200 m, light cannot penetrate; thus, this is referred to as the aphotic zone. The majority of the ocean is aphotic and lacks sufficient light for photosynthesis. The deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep (in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean), is about 11,000 m (about 6.8 mi) deep. To give some perspective on the depth of this trench, the ocean is, on average, 4267 m or 14,000 ft deep.