Tide pool exploration introduces your children to the life in seawater. The National Parks Service calls tide pools "windows to the sea," and facts about the pools give kids some insight into the complexity of water environments. While trips to the ocean and gulfs give first-person experiences with pools, the Internet also offers virtual tours of the intertidal world that is home to animals and plants.
Pools happen when ocean waves leave water around rock formations near the shore. The best time to find pools is during low tides when the ocean water recedes from the shoreline. Most pools disappear when the tides return to cover the areas. The San Diego Natural History Museum recommends checking the tide tables and waiting for a calm period when the tide is less than 1 foot to see the largest number of animals and plant life during pool visits.
State governments have laws monitoring pools within the state boundaries, and federal regulations enforced by the National Wildlife System, Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration protect tide pools inside national marine sanctuaries and monuments. The primary protection of tide pools, however, relies on pool guests to avoid damaging the tiny environment by touching, removing or stepping on pool residents.
Crabs, jellyfish, sea anemones, mussels, oysters and snails live in tide pools, and larger, regular visitors include octopus and sea lions. Sea stars, lobsters, barnacles and hermit crabs enjoy the pools off the Southern California coast in San Diego, and bury themselves in the sand or under rocks when the water recedes with the tide. Florida pools host shrimp, sea urchin, crabs and algae in the state's warm water pools.
The specific species of plants found in tide pools depends on the geographic location, but pools in different locations share common plant life that feeds intertidal residents and small visitors. Groups of pool algae frequently take popular names such as brush seaweed, black pine, Turkish washcloth and tar spot. Other plants take names of common foods, including sea lettuce and cauliflower.
Visitor Behavior Suggestions
Understanding the basic workings of a tide pool gives your children insight into the human ecosystem. The National Parks Service warns visitors to tide pools to observe, but to avoid touching and picking up plants and animals. Handling the pool animals and plants can destroy the tiny ecosystem. Visitors to some popular pools disturb the life patterns, and people sometimes collect small residents, such as owl limpets and abalone for tasty meals. Removing objects from the pool destroys the ecosystem. Tide pools create a closed system and develop a food chain that connects plankton to the sea gull through eating habits. Eliminating any step in the dining chain causes a pool imbalance that destroys the cycle.