What is Marine Snow?

photo_of_marine-snow

Ocean Blue receives so many questions everyday from our members, and one question we really enjoy answering is: does it snow in the ocean?


by Karisa Boyce of Ocean Blue Project

The short answer is yes– there is such a thing as marine snow, but it’s not the snow you’re thinking of when you build a snowman or go skiing.

Marine snow refers to the “shower of organic material falling from upper waters to the deep ocean,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), resembling “snowflakes” that grow to several centimeters in diameter as they accumulate matter on their way down to the ocean floor.
But not all of the marine snow makes it to the ocean floor. 

This “organic material” serves as a fruitful source of nourishment for marine wildlife, and NOAA’s measurements have shown there is plenty of carbon and nitrogen present in marine snow to satisfy all the species below the ocean’s surface.

According to the Smithsonian, marine snow is beneficial for marine life like the vampire squid, which has adapted over time to catch and consume the particles, and eel larvae during their early development period. Whatever is not eaten turns into a “thick, smooth ooze” on the ocean floor, collecting approximately 6 meters of continually falling marine snow every million years– that’s about 815 million tons of carbon each year. 

So, while marine snow is a fairly new concept to scientists, we can definitely confirm that “many marine animals feed on this incredibly nutritious material along the way, making marine snow the backbone of many deep-sea creatures diets and food webs.”

Let’s work together to protect marine snow, and volunteer with Ocean Blue Project today!

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