Phytoplankton are some of the most primitive plants in the ocean. Although they are very tiny, these plants account for a majority of the oxygen that is produced for the air that humans breathe. Because they account for so much photosynthesis activity, these ocean plants are monitored by scientists at major organizations like NASA. The health of phytoplankton determines the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide and even controls the water's climate changes.
Some phytoplankton emit fluorescence. Although they are too small to see from the naked eye, the emission of fluorescence allows observers to see the lines of color in the ocean. Phytoplankton can also be seen as green layers on the top of the ocean water. This is due to the plant's chlorophyll, which is a major component in photosynthesis reactions.
Kelp are some of the most colorful and exotic looking ocean plants. These plants prefer cold, shallow waters that are nutrient rich. Kelp are a type of seaweed. These plants are seen on the shores and beaches of the Pacific Ocean in places like California. They can grow in very cold temperatures lower than 20 degrees C, so they are even found in arctic climates like the oceans of Antarctica.
Kelp have a unique ability to grow very fast. Like phytoplankton, they are dependent on sunlight, so they are found in waters no deeper than 40 m. Kelp also grows to be very large, so they can span several meters on the shores of the ocean. They are flat-leaf plants that float on the surface of the water, collecting sunlight for photosynthesis and providing oxygen for the air.
Coral (coral reef in Indonesia pictured above)
Unlike kelp, coral is seen in warm waters. Coral reefs make up a large amount of the ocean's ecosystem. It's estimated that coral supports up to 25 percent of marine life. Coral is not just made up of aquatic plants, but it also has a rocky surface that allows tiny fish and eels to hide within the crevices. The fish that make coral its home feed on the plants. Coral is also home to sharks that prey on the surrounding wildlife.
Coral is dependent on sunlight, so it's found on the shores in several places around the world. Because of its ecosystem and ability to attract exotic wildlife, coral is also a tourist attraction. Divers and snorkelers travel miles to see the beauty of coral reefs. Coral reef color is actually from a tiny resident organism that feeds on the plants. Zooxanthellae survive by feeding on coral plants. Different types of zooxanthellae emit different types of color, so it gives coral its vibrant architecture.