acrylic on canvas
The intertidal zone, with its vast assortment of critters, is a truly fascinating environment. Being exposed above water at low tide and underwater at high tide creates a unique set of conditions, including drastic temperature fluctuations, wave action, and weather disturbances. But the intertidal inhabitants are well adapted to this harsh environment! When the tide is out, periwinkle snails cluster in crevices and secrete a gluelike mucus that sticks them to the rocks, so as to avoid being swept away by waves, barnacles seal their shells closed to prevent drying out, and algal species such as Rockweeds have the remarkable ability to survive severe dehydration, to the point of becoming brittle – when the tide comes back in, they simply reabsorb water and resume their normal lives. But our actions are starting to have serious impacts, with overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change being among the many problems now faced by intertidal communities.
The intertidal zone is a critical interface between the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, providing habitat and food for migrating birds, protecting coastlines from erosion, supporting keystone species, and housing the ocean’s cleaning crew (filter-feeding organisms such as mussels). Their preservation is crucial to human culture and food security, the balance of marine food chains, and the future health of the World Ocean.