The photic zone, euphotic zone, epipelagic zone, or sunlight zone is the uppermost layer of a body of water that receives sunlight, allowing phytoplankton to perform photosynthesis. It undergoes a series of physical, chemical, and biological processes that supply nutrients into the upper water column. The photic zone is home to the majority of aquatic life due to its location.
In the photic zone, the photosynthesis rate exceeds the respiration rate. This is due to the abundant solar energy which is used as an energy source for photosynthesis by primary producers such as phytoplankton. These phytoplankton grow extremely quickly because of sunlight’s heavy influence, enabling it to be produced at a fast rate. In fact, ninety five percent of photosynthesis in the ocean occurs in the photic zone. Therefore, if we go deeper, beyond the photic zone, such as into the compensation point, there is little to no phytoplankton, because of insufficient sunlight. The zone which extends from the base of the euphotic zone to about 200 meters is sometimes called the dysphotic zone.
Ninety percent of marine life lives in the photic zone, which is approximately two hundred meters deep. This includes phytoplankton (plants), including dinoflagellates, diatoms, cyanobacteria, coccolithophorids, and cryptomonads. It also includes zooplankton, the consumers in the photic zone. There are carnivorous meat eaters and herbivorous plant eaters. Next, copepods are the small crustaceans distributed everywhere in the photic zone. Finally, there are nekton (animals that can propel themselves, like fish, squids, and crabs), which are the largest and the most obvious animals in the photic zone, but their quantity is the smallest among all the groups.
The depth of the photic zone depends on the transparency of the water. If the water is very clear, the photic zone can become very deep. If it is very murky, it can be only fifty feet (fifteen meters) deep.