The Biotope: Marine Ecological Classification

BACKGROUND : In this exercise, we rely heavily on the work done by Scientists across Canada and the US. The NatureServe network includes member programs operating in all 50 U.S. states, in 11 Canadian provinces and territories and in many countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean.
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The Classification Hierarchy

“The classification for coastal and marine habitats identifies and categorizes the physical environment at different spatial scales in estuarine, coastal and marine regimes, and places the associated biology in the context of the physical habitat. This is called the CMECS or Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard.
The classification standard is organized into a branched hierarchy of six nested levels (Figure 1). The levels correspond to both a functional ecological relationships and a progressively smaller map scale from the order of 1:1,000,000 (Regime) to the order of 1:1 (Habitat/Biotope). The classification branches into five Regimes at the highest level: estuarine, freshwater-influenced marine, nearshore marine, neritic, and oceanic. Regimes are divided into large- scale physical structures, including geoforms and hydroforms called Formations. Each of these forms can be further compartmentalized according to its Zone, or position relative to the water: whether it is continuously submerged bottom or at the waterline (littoral), or within the water column. Each of these components further divides into Macrohabitat and then Habitat. The Biotope represents the quantum unit of the habitat combining both the physical habitat and its associated fixed biota. At each level, units are distinguished from each other by the application of classifiers that capture the defining differences among units. The classifiers are integral components of all levels of the classification; particularly the Habitat and Biotope levels that further define units based on such qualities as substrate, energy, salinity, turbidity or characteristic structural components. ”
See further reference including the Biotope definition below
OBJECTIVES: After doing this assignment, students will be able to:

a) Discriminate between and designate the six levels of Environmental classification for the different biotopes of Race Rocks.

b) Enter a Coastal Classification for one of the areas they can observe at Race Rocks .


1. Choose one of the biotopes in the table below for an area you can observe at Race Rocks, either directly if you are able to go there or by means of the remote cameras .
2. In your notebook, justify why you classify the area that way, providing the list of the six levels.

Level 1 REGIME— Level 2
Geoforms and Hydroforms
Level 3 Zone Level 3 b subzone Level 4
Level 5-Habitat Level 6 Biotope
#21 COLUMBIAN PACIFIC.UTM— to —-?(The Columbian Pacific region stretches along the Pacific coast from Cape Mendocino in the South, northward to include the Straight of Juan de Fuca and end at northern tip ofVancouver Island, in the North. The region is home to abundant plant and wildlife, but also has one of the fastest growing human populations in North America. )
A. Estuarine regime
 A.01 Estuarine lagoon formation
A.01.WWatercolumn zone
A.01.BBenthic zone
Epibenthic subzone
Subbenthic subzone
A.01.LLittoral zone
Supratidal subzone
Backshore lagoon flats macrohabitat Biotope: Phragmites, cattail, reed canary grass
drainage channels macrohabitat Biotope: stickleback, cutthroat trout
Intertidal subzone
salt marsh macrohabitat Biotope: Distychlis, Salicornia
salt pans macrohabitat Biotope: acorn barnacle,
mud flat macrohabitat Biotope: wading birds,
drainage channels macrohabitat Biotope: iron bacteria,
Infratidal subzone
A.02Estuarine embayment formation
A.02.B bottom zone
A.02.L littoral zone
A.02.W water column zone
A.03 Estuarine Shoreline Formation
Estuarine littoral shore zone
A.03.L.a estuarine shore unconsolidated sediments macrohabitat
A.03.L.b  Estuarine shore unconsolidated sediments macrohabitat
A.03.L.f   Estuarine shore water column macrohabitat
B.Freshwater-influenced regime

C.03 Marine Shoreline Formation
Benthic zone
littoral zone
water column zone
Upper Water Column layer
Pycnocline layer
Bottom Water Column layer
C.05 Nearshore Island formation
C.05.B Benthic or bottom zone
C.05.B.01Epibenthic subzone
C.05.B.01aunder water– cliff face macrohabitat Biotope: basket star, Gersemia rubriformis (soft pink coral) hydroids (see reference .. 65 species),Gorgonocephalus eucnemis (basket star),
C.05.B.01btumbling rock macrohabitat Biotope: Nereocystis luetkeana (bull kelp), Pterygophora californica (Stalked kelp), Calliostoma (top shell), Solaster stimpsoni( stripped sunstar), Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower star) Henricia leviuscula (blood star).Cucumaria miniata (orange sea cucumber), Metridium farcimen (Giant plumose anemone) Enteroctopus dofleini (Giant Pacific Octopus), Ophiothrix spiculata (brittle star)
C.05.B.01chorizontal current channel macrohabitat Biotope:Cystodytes lobatus (lobed compound tunicate), Ascidians, Isodictya rigida finger sponges, Mycale toparoki (yellow sponge), Aglaophenia latirostris (ostrich plume hydroids) Tubularia regalis (regal pink mouth hydroid ) also other hydroid species
C.05.B.01dshell fragment bottom macrohabitat Biotope: Oligocottus maculosus (sculpin),Opalia chacei (Chace’s wentletrap)
C.05.B.01ebare rock substrate macrohabitat Biotope: Lithothamnion sp. (encrusting pink algae), Dodecaceria concharum (coralline fringed tube worm) , Cucumaria pseudocurata (Tar Spot Sea Cucumber)
C.05.B.02Subbenthic subzone
C.05.B.02.ashell -fragment macrohabitat Biotope: Ptilosarcus (Sea Pen),Opalia chacei (Chace’s wentletrap)
C.05.B.02.bgravel, sand macrohabitat Biotope:Myxicola infundibulum jelly tube
mud macrohabitat
Biotope: none available
C.05.Llittoral zone..
C.05.L.01Supratidal subzone
C.05.L.01.arock cliff and boulder habitat
Biotope:, Cepphus columba (pigeon Guillemot) and Phalacrocorax pelagicus (pelagic cormorant )nesting, Phalacrocorax penicilatu, (Brandt’s Cormorant) and Larus thayeri (Thayer’s gull) overwintering.
Biotope:Romanzoffia (mist maidens) Plantago,
C.05.L.01.bupper island rock plateau habitat
Biotope: thrift, Larus glaucescens (Glaucous-winged Gull) nesting, Phalacrocorax auritas, (double-breasted cormorant- winter resident), Haliacetus leucocepfalus ( bald eagle), Falco peregrinus (peregrine falcon) Corvus caurinus (North-western Crow) Corvus corax, (Raven–winter)
Biotope: Haulout for the following marine mammals: Harbour seal, Mirounga angustirostris (elephant seal), Zalophus californianus (California sea lion), Eumetopias jubatus (northern sea lion), Phoca vitulina Harbour seal.
C.05.L.01.cupper spray Zone rock and gravel habitat
Biotope: Caloplaca verruculifera (orange lichen), Xanthorea candelaria (orange lichen) Lecanora straminea (grey lichen) Prasiola meridionalis (uppermost green algae
Neomolgus littoralis (red velvet mite)
Biotope: Haematopus bachmani (Black-Oystercatcher nesting), Arenaria melanocephala (Black turnstone)
C.05.L.01.dinner island grassed plain habitat Biotope: Native fescue grasses, several flower garden escapes,
and introduced brome and orchard grass, Branta canadensis (Canada goose) nesting,
C.05.L.01.eBrackish pools in spray zone Biotope: Pyramimonas (green water pool )
C.05.L.02Intertidal subzone
C.05.L.02.a Rocky
shoreline….. macrohabitat
High energy intertidal boulders and loose rock sub-habitat Biotope: Hemigrapsus nudus (Purple shore crab),
High energy intertidal high elevation tidepool sub- habitat Biotope: Harpacticoid, Littorina sitkana and Littorina scutulata (littorine snails, isopod
High energy intertidal low elevation tidepool sub- habitat Biotope: low level pool: Phyllospadix scouleri (surfgrass) Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (purple urchin), Oligocottus maculosus (tidepool sculpin) Anthopleura xanthogrammica (Giant green anemone)
High energy intertidal solid substrate subhabitat Biotope: Porphyra, Halosaccion, Chthamalus sp.(barnacle) Neomolgus (red mite)
High energy/high current solid substrate habitat Biotope: Mytilus californianus, (California mussel), Anthopleura elegantissima ( small intertidal anemone, Endocladia muricata (red algae) Chthamalus (barnacle) Pollicipes polymerus (goose-necked barnacle)
Low energy solid substrate habitat Biotope: Alaria marginata (short stipe algae), Eudistylia vancouveri (feather duster worm) Mopalia mucosa (mossy chiton)
Surge Channel habitat Biotope: Polycepes polymerus (Goose-neck barnacles):Anthopleura xanthogramica (large intertidal anemone)
Intertidal reef habitat Biotope: Mytilus californianus ( mussel), Phyllospadix scoulleri (surf grass)
Anthropomorphic (human modified) structure:concrete dock. Chthamalus( barnacle), Ulva (green algae)
C.05.L.02.bHigh energy bay macrohabitat
Shell beach habitat Biotope:
sand beach habitat Biotope:
cobble beach habitat Biotope:
C.05.L.02.c.Low energy bay macrohabitat
Shell beach habitat Biotope:
sand beach habitat Biotope:
cobble beach habitat Biotope:
C.05.L.02.d High energy beach macrohabitat
Shell beach habitat Biotope:
sand beach habitat Biotope:
cobble beach habitat Biotope:
C.05.L.02.eLow energy beach macrohabitat
Shell beach habitat Biotope:
sand beach habitat Biotope:
cobble beach habitat Biotope:
C.05.L.03Infratidal subzone

Depth to 10 meters affected by tidal surge

C.05.L.03.asolid substrate macrohabitat
10 meter depth habitat Biotope: Nereocystis (bull kelp), Membranipora serrilamella (bryozoa) Epiactis prolifera (brooding anemone), Urticina crassicornis (Fish eating anemone)
5-10 meter depth habitat Biotope: Pterygophora californica (perennial algae)
0-5 meter depth habitat Biotope:Laminaria groenlandica (Brown Algae), Ophlitaspongia pennata (velvety red sponge), Calliostoma ligatum (Blue top snail)
C.05.L.03.bTumbling rock macrohabitat
10 meter habitat Biotope: Strongylocentrotus (red urchin), Cucumaria miniata (sea cucumber)
5-10 meter depth habitat Biotope:Strongyocentrotus purpuratus (purple urchin), Cucumaria miniata (orange sea cucumber), Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis( green urchin)
0-5 meter depth habitat Biotope: (leather chiton, limpet species, northern abalone.
C.05.L.03.c Shell fragment gravel pockets macro habitat
10 meter habitat Biotope:swimming scallop, Opalia (chalces wentletrap)
5-10 meter depth habitat Biotope: sculpin
0-5 meter depth habitat Biotope: Surf grass, abalone, Laminaria saccharina
(brown algae)
C.05.Wwater column zone
C.05.W.01 and Upper Water Column layer subzone
Biotope: phytoplankton, zoooplankton,(krill),
Biotope: salmon species, black rockfish, herring.
C.05.W.02Pycnocline layer subzone
Biotope: none established:
C.05.W.03Bottom Water Column layer subzone
Biotope: Planktonic
Biotope:Hexagrammos decagrammus (kelp greenling), Sebastes nigrocinctus (tiger rockfish, china rockfish), Scorpaenichthyes marmoratus (cabezon), Ophiodon elongatus (ling cod),
C.05.W.04 Surface and diving depth subzone
Biotope: Orcinus Orca (killer whale)
Biotope: Histrionicus histrionicus Harlquin Duck, Larus glaucescen (Glaucous-winged gull), Cepphus columba (Pigeon Guillemot), Phalacrocorax pelagicus (Pelagic Cormorant)
Neritic regime
Oceanic regime
From the NatureServe website, a brief description of the BIOTOPE:
The finest level of the classification is the Biotope. The biotope is a specific area of a habitat that
includes recurring, persistent, and predictable biological associations. The biological associations can
include plants, attached sessile fauna and unattached but relatively non-motile fauna and bacterial
colonies. A biotope is environmentally uniform in structure, environment, and is defined by the dominant
biota. The primary characteristic of the biotope is the relationship between the physical habitat and a
strongly associated or fixed “high fidelity” plant and animal species. “Fixed” is defined as an individual
organism that cannot move beyond the frame of reference of the habitat boundary within one day.

Epibenthic,( on the surface of the ocean bottom) organisms like anemones, sponges, hydroids, and benthic infauna (buried in the bottom sediments) such as polychaetes would be considered part of a biotope complex.
While much of the sedentary or fixed biota defines a particular biotope, other organisms demonstrate less
fidelity to any specific biotope. More motile or vagile organisms can be associated with multiple biotopes or
interact with the physical structure of the environment at any number of classification levels and spatial or
temporal scales. Larger animals, such as blue whales, may interact with elements defined in the
classification at a level of Formations, such as the shelf break or submarine canyon. Smaller animals
interact with Macrohabitats, Habitats or Biotopes. As the classification matures, the linkages of species and biological
associations to different classification units at different levels will become better known and documented.Detailed Description and Rationale
The biotope concept has been employed for several years in Europe and is defined as the “physical
habitat… and its community of animals and plants (Costello, 2003).
” This refers to the dominant
biological inhabitant(s) of a specific habitat, whether the species are “diagnostic,” as in the terminology of
Cowardin (1979) and Dethier (1990), or if they are “commonly associated.” A species is considered to be
part of a biotope if it is conspicuous, dominant, and physically linked to the habitat. The concept and
nomenclature for the biotope follow the BioMar system (Costello, 2003; Connor, 1997), which has been
integrated into the EUNIS classification for European habitats (Davies and Moss 1999) and into this
classification, although some of the terminology has been changed here.
Vegetation units such as specific algal and rooted plant species, salt marsh and other vegetation are
recognized at the biotope level. This biota is recognized as being associated with a particular habitat,
rather than defining the habitat. This is an important departure from several widely used classifications
such as those developed by Cowardin (1979), Ferren et al. (1996) and Madley et al. (2002) but follows
the same logic as the Dethier (1990) and the Costello (2003) classifications.
Adapted from CMECS Classification subcategories see also from the NatureServe site: