The pelagic zone is the open region of any lake, sea, or ocean that is away from any part of land, be it the coast or the sea floor. Marine life-from microscopic plankton and tuna to sharks – dominates this area. Due to the abundance of marine creatures, it is a critical space for producing oxygen, regulating climate, and economic activity.

Pelagic Zone Facts

The pelagic zone plays many critical roles that make it essential to life on Earth. Factors that make the pelagic zone unique include:

It covers more than 50% of the Earth in water, more than 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) deep.
It makes up more than 99% of the inhabitable space on our planet.
The deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, is about 11,000 meters (7 miles) deep.
The open ocean produces more than 50% of the world’s oxygen.
It is a critical carbon sink, storing 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere.
Many of its inhabitants never experience sunlight.

The open ocean provides food, medicine, and economic opportunities for people worldwide. In addition to seafood, ocean harvests provide ingredients for foods like peanut butter and soy milk. Medications for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis use materials extracted from the ocean, and the United States alone produces $282 billion in ocean-dependent goods and services.

Layers of the Pelagic Zone

The pelagic realm is divided into five distinct regions based on average depth and sunlight availability. Moving from the surface to the ocean floor, the zones are labeled:


Sunlight, oxygen, and temperature decrease with depth while pressure increases. The organisms in each zone have adapted to live in these conditions.

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