By: Carson Poulos
The Continental Shelf is a long ocean plain that begins at the shore line and stretches out to the deep sea. It is formed when sediment erodes from the landmass. More plants and animals live on the shelf than any other place in the ocean. Rich sediments and sunlight make the Continental Shelf a great place for marine life to live. The Continental Slope is at the end of the shelf where the land plunges down to the great ocean depths. The change in elevation can be dramatic, usually nine miles! Continental slopes are the longest and highest continuous boundaries on Earth. Wind patterns and the current help pull nutrient-rich water up the slope providing feeding grounds for many fish and whales. Debris and sediment falls down the Continental Slope coming to rest in an area known as the Continental Rise. Usually, the Continental Rise is considerably small. Sediment moves out past the slope forming a cone-like deposit at the bottom of the slope. The Abyssal Plain is pitch black, and freezing cold. The extreme water pressure could crush a building! Even here in the mineral-rich water, marine life still goes on. For the most part, the abyssal plain is smooth and level, but here and there, huge trenches crack the ocean floor. Trenches form when ocean plates converge or separate. There are also huge mountains and volcanoes. Those are the key features of the ocean floor.