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Ribbed Mussel, Sheepshead Minnow, Mud Fiddler Crab, Cobia, Atlantic Brief Squid, Colorful Sea Whip, Southern Flounder, Finetooth Shark, Horseshoe Crab, Knobbed Whelk

Marine Ecosystem

General Description and Location The Coastal Marine Ecosystem occurs along all 291.5 km (181 mi) of South Carolina’s Atlantic Ocean coastline and extends offshore to the state 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) jurisdictional boundary, incorporating a surface area of nearly 140,000 hectares (~346,000 acres). The following habitats


generally recognized:

  • Intertidal Beach. The front ocean beach region that is typically inundated on flood tides and dewatered on ebb tides. Invertebrate fauna in the intertidal beach zone such as the coquina clam (Donax variablis) and the mole crab (Emerita talpoida) are an integral part of the food supply for shorebirds and seabirds (piping plover (Charadrius melodus), willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), sanderling (Calidris alba) and red knot (Calidris canutus) that forage at the intertidal beach and surf interface.

  • Surf Zone. The submerged portion of the beach area and extending offshore to a depth of 6 feet at any tidal stage. Marine aquatic species in this zone are heavily influenced by turbulence from wave action. Ninety-eight fish and 317 macro-invertebrate species are recognized as at least occasional inhabitants.

  • Shallow Shelf. The portion of the Atlantic Ocean submerged continental shelf offshore to the 3-mile state territorial limit. Shallow shelf habitats can be further divided into three important types, soft bottom, hard bottom and pelagic zone. Soft bottom is composed of unconsolidated sediments that supply sand to the continental shelf, barrier islands, and beaches; store nutrients in the sediment; and are critical nursery and feeding habitat for fish. Hard bottom supports a wide variety of invertebrate and fish species, including many species popular with recreational fishers. Hard bottom habitats are continually being discovered and mapped. The pelagic zone supports many year-round nekton (water-column) species, but also is an important migration route or temporary home for numerous transitory species.

Associated Species

High Priority: Moderate Priority: Unranked:

Bottlenose Dolphin, Black Scoter Common Loon Hardhead Catfish, Southern Kingfish, Surf Scoter, Sheepshead, Atlantic

Spadefish, Cannonball Jellyfish, Coquina Clam

Man-made Structures

General Description and Location Engineered structures are estimated to cover over 25 percent of South Carolina’s nearly 90 miles of developed coastline (SCDHEC 2005). Some of the most familiar structures include piers, boardwalks, housing and commercial development, jetties and groins. Manmade structures can provide hard surfaces and relief (vertical extension) of substrate into the water column that promote the attachment of many aquatic species, including algae and mosses in low salinity

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