Up to 32 students

45-60 minutes


Through the process of erosion elements such as calcium, iron, silicon and magnesium was down river eventually making their way to the oceans. These elements nourish the seas and add to the food webs there in.

What settles to the deep ocean may have opportunity to rise and nourish the oceans upper layers at a later time through a wind and current related process. Winds and currents form predictable pattern over all the Earth’s oceans. As wind creates waves the push moves a layer on top windward water beneath this layer twists up to fill in the space. Eventually this twisting motion created by the drive of the wind at the surface forms a spiral down deep into the sea. These are called Ekman Spirals which help to bring nutrient rich bottom waters up to the photic zone to be consumed by single cell organisms such as diatoms and radiolarians.

Adversely the pollutants on and within the land may also make thier way to our drinking water and the ocean systems.

Learning Objectives:

1. Erosion of rock on the continents feeds the ocean's life forms with needed nutrients.

2. Nutrients that settle on the ocean floor may be upwelled through other forces.

3. Without upwelling and incoming sediments there are generally less organisms in the ocean.

Guiding Questions:

What happens to all the minerals that are eroded off the continents? Do these minerals serve a purpose in the oceans?



Internet connection

Activity 1: Think, Pair, Share

Have students pair up or work in small groups to answer some questions on erosion and the benefits to our oceans. Good questions to propose to groups are:

When water and precipitation wash away the elements and minerals from the rock where do theses nutrients end up?

Would we find more erosion and runoff in the high mountains or low lying plains areas?

Where there is little runoff of minerals does the amount of ocean life benefit or suffer?

Activity 2: Online Investigation

Have students learn more about phytoplankton and blooms by visiting some or all of the following websites.

What do phytoplankton look like? Phytoplankton Images


What is a phytoplankton bloom? What do phytoplankton need to bloom?

Phytoplankton Bloom Images

Where do phytoplankton blooms occur? Phytoplankton Bloom Location Images

What's an Ekman Spiral?

Ekman Spiral Information I

Ekman Spiral Information II


Conclusion and Wrap Up:

Have students submit in written form the answers to the question above.

Have students add to their LINK.

Vocabulary to note:

Ekman Spiral


Coriolis Effect


New York Scope and Sequence:

Intermediate and High School Science Standards

Physical Setting:

Key Idea 2.1o - 2.1w, 2.2a - 2.2c

Living Environment:

Key Idea 1.1a - 1.1f

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