Aquatic Garden

September 17, 2014 Oregon 226

The rocky, barnacle encrusted beaches along the central Oregon coast harbor rich webs of life.

Various “sea weeds,” algae, and plankton provide food for many sorts of animals.

Many more plants grow along these Northwestern beaches than we normally find along the Atlantic beaches I have known so well.

 

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Every sea washed rock and tidal pool holds these beautiful aquatic plants.

Others grow directly from the sand.  Suspended and buoyed by the waves below the high tide mark, one finds them strangely flat and “deflated” when the tide recedes, leaving them behind.

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These beautiful aquatic plants come not only in different shades of rich green, but also in an autumnal set of shades ranging from reds to browns, golds and purples.

 

This photo was taken in a tidal pool exhibit at the Aquarium in Newport.  They still have healthy starfish in their exhibits.

This photo was taken in a tidal pool exhibit at the Aquarium in Newport. They still have healthy starfish in their exhibits.

 

Many are edible.  Sushi lovers already know Nori.

But there is a range of edible “sea weeds” many of us in North America have never explored.

A tidal pool along the beach at Lincoln City, Oregon.

A starfish still survives in this tidal pool along the beach at Lincoln City, Oregon.

 

So many different types of plants grow together along the Oregon beaches.

Long strands, pulled loose by forces under the sea, wash up along the beach with each tide.

 

An exhibit at the Newport Aquarium shows how fish interact with the natural sea weeds off the coast.

An exhibit at the Newport Aquarium shows how fish interact with the natural sea weeds off the coast.

We saw these as they normally grow in the Newport Aquarium.  They attract their own food chains of animals large and small which congregate around them.

Many plants cling to coastal rocks, below the high tide line, in a rich tapestry of life with mussels, barnacles, Sea Anemones, and other small animals.

 

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Schools of fish feed among them when the tide is in.

Gulls and other shore birds move in as the tide recedes.

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Birds feed from the rich banquet on the rocks, pulling tender flesh from their shells, until the tide returns and covers the rocks yet again.

 

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Many types of crabs, Starfish, Sea Cucumbers and Sea Urchins crawl around these shallow pools at low tide, live among the pilings of docks, and inhabit shallow bays.

 

An tidal pool exhibit at the Newport Aquarium where visitors may touch the animals.

An tidal pool exhibit at the Newport Aquarium where visitors may touch the animals.  the red patches here are an aquatic algae.  The purple creature is a Sea urchin. 

 

These bright, technicolor animals glow green and orange, purple, pink, gold, and red.

 

This hermit crab needs a new shell to protect him.  But, no shells were to be found on the beach.

This hermit crab needs a new shell to protect him. But, no shells were to be found on the beach.

I last visited the Oregon coast four years ago.  Thick clusters of starfish could be found on nearly every rock formation.

They were large and healthy.  Sea urchins crawled freely around the pools at low tide.

Green Sea Anenomes live in this natural tidal pool on the beach.

Green Sea Anemones live in this natural tidal pool on the beach.

The change in four short years amazed me on this visit. 

I found only one starfish living in the wild during an entire week of walks on the beach.

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Many factors, including warmer water and greater levels of acidity and pollution have reduced the animal populations.

These beautiful tidal areas no longer hold large numbers of animals as they once did.

 

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Clusters of mussels and barnacles also litter the sand at low tide.

 

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But these were the only shells I found.  No other species washed up with the tides.

I don’t know enough about climate and ocean chemistry to know whether these conditions can be reversed.

 

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I hope they can.  I saw clear evidence of life dieing out along these beautiful beaches.

 

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But finding so much plant life encouraged me, if only a little.

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So long as the plants remain, they continue to do their part to cleanse and oxygenate the water.

They provide food for many species.

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And they are beautiful.  I was endlessly fascinated with their many strange colors and forms.

Planted only by nature, these strange aquatic gardens filled me with wonder.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Photos from the Oregon coast and Newport Aquarium

 

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Seaweeds of the Pacific Northwest

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

6 responses to “Aquatic Garden

  1. Beautiful photos, but disturbing is your news of seeing less animal life. What is happening to our planet? It is scary. I recently saw a film taken over 100 yrs. ago at a beach and I was astounded at the numbers of birds – it really made it obvious that humans are having a very negative impact on this precious home of ours.

    • Dear Eliza,
      We are of one mind on this. Did you see the spot on The Weather Channel about Glacier National Park? They document the change with photos every year in September. WC is showing an interview with the current photographer showing photos of the same scene taken in the 1930 and taken this year. Stunning change…
      Have you had frost yet? We are in the midst of a cool down, but our lows are still hanging in the 50s. The Caladiums have given up for the year, and so must be gathered soon. Best wishes, WG

  2. Simply gorgeous photos, WG, but you worry me with these observations of wildlife die-off. It just makes me ill to contemplate what is going on in nature. In any event, a superb post filled with your usual wise and wonderful observations. Missed you!

    • Thank you, Barbara. Imagine my surprise as I walked the beach peering into tidal pools day after day to find them nearly empty this time…. Tyler and I got together while I was out there, and he and his wife shared with me that there is a 6 mile “dead zone” between where I was staying and Newport due to changing conditions in the ocean. AND, there is no major industry or military presence in this area of the coast. This is all from other causes. I’m happy you enjoyed the photos, Barbara. And as much as I enjoyed the trip, it is wonderful to be home. I was able to get out into my own garden on Monday for the first time. The pears are ripening! This is our first season to have a pear harvest! Up your way yesterday, but now home for a stretch and so a chance to catch up with friends’ posts 😉 Best wishes, WG

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