Value of the Coastal Ecosystem: The Babies of the Intertidal Zone

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What are the babies of the intertidal zone and how valuable is this part of the coastal ecosystem?

The intertidal zone is a very important part of the coastal ecosystem. See the babies of the intertidal zone and discover how valuable this ecosystem is to human survival especially in marine resource dependent economies of the world.

What is the intertidal zone?

The intertidal zone, also called littoral zone, is that part of the coastal area bounded by the highest tide and the lowest tide. It is a zone that gets inundated by incoming tide and becomes dry as the tides recedes during low tide. The intertidal zone undergoes a rhythm of wet-dry cycles which is an important process in the maintenance of a unique zone occupied by a variety of marine life forms. It could be extensive or narrow, depending on the slope of the coast. Gradually sloping coasts would allow an extensive section to be part of the intertidal zone.

What can be found in the intertidal zone?

Various life forms can be found in the intertidal zone. It harbours a rich collection of marine life which is a vital part of the food chain, rather food web, as the interconnections between producer and grazer as well as predator and prey in the intertidal zone are so complex.

The Babies of the Intertidal Zone

The following are examples of interesting marine organisms found in the mid-eastern portion of Palawan, a tropical island well known in the Philippines which still, despite the externalities associated with modernization, serve as a rich repository of marine life. The intertidal zone, interestingly, is home for “baby” versions of various marine organisms.

baby sea urchin

Fig. 1. A baby sea urchin amongst seagrasses.

baby brittle star

Fig. 2. A baby brittle star waves among rubbles of coral.

baby lobster

Fig. 3. A baby lobster locally called "pitik" is a well-sought delicacy when mature.

baby crab

Fig. 4. A baby crab feeds on organic material stuck on seagrass leaf.

baby eel

Fig. 5. A baby eel lies motionless at the side of a rock.

baby shells

Fig. 6. Thousands of baby shells burst out of nowhere and find their way on top of pebbles.

How valuable is the intertidal zone?

The above “babies” of the intertidal zone just show how a diverse array of marine organisms can inhabit this part of the shore. This just illustrates how valuable the the intertidal zone is as nursery area for a diverse collection of marine species that make up the food chain. The nursery function is a valuable attribute of this zone.

When baby organisms grow to full maturity, these become food for homes and restaurants. And these of course are not given free because people spend money in obtaining them. Fishers spend time, effort, materials, fuel, among others to make these marine foods available to consumers. If these marine products get through middlemen or compradors, more value is added to compensate for their efforts. In fact, the middlemen usually get most of the profits from their buying and selling venture.

The total economic value of the intertidal zone is not simply comprised of the value that people can get directly from harvesting the resources therein. As pointed out earlier, gleaning is an important economic activity in this part of the coast. This is a direct benefit while the nursery function explained above is an indirect benefit. There are other likewise important uses of the intertidal zone. To find out or estimate how much this is requires application of economic valuation tools (see How to Determine Forest Value to see how this works).

©2011 October 26 Patrick A. Regoniel Value of the Coastal Ecosystem: The “Babies” of the Intertidal Zone


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