Sea plants like marine algae, seagrasses, marsh grass, and mangroves provide habitats for many marine creatures including shrimp, bivalves, fish, plankton, and other small organisms. In large concentrations, these plants stabilize the substrate that might otherwise be affected by erosion. From the human perspective, wetlands and mangrove stands offer a buffer against storms such as hurricanes, protecting the inland areas where people live – especially in places like the coastlines of Florida and Louisiana.



Mangroves, marine algae, seagrasses, and marsh grass play another vital role for many marine creatures – that of nursery. Many animals spawn in these areas because their young have a better chance of evading predators while hidden in the plants. Many animals rely on these plants as a main food source as well. Sea urchins are just one example of an invertebrate that eats marine algae, also keeping the algae in check against overgrowth.[1] Without these vital plants, marine animals would have little protection from the elements, predators, and human activities.

There are many pre-oil spill threats to marine plants in the Gulf of Mexico (read more...). Pollution and fertilizer runoff, damage from boat groundings, and human-caused stresses on natural water systems are just a few types of degradation that impact these fragile ecosystems. The effects of the oil spill in combination with these pre-existing conditions are difficult to predict. However, it is certain that the results will not be good for the already stressed environments that many species of marine life call home.

When exposed to oil and the dispersants used to clean up the spill, the sea plants themselves are directly affected. But in addition, the marine animals that depend on these plants – as food and shelter – are also impacted, and the rest of the food web will feel the effect.

[1] Sea Urchin