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MARINE BOTTOM COMMUNITIES OF BLOCK ISLAND WATERS
Hale, S S. MARINE BOTTOM COMMUNITIES OF BLOCK ISLAND WATERS.
The sea has long been an integral part of Block Island's natural history, beginning when the rising sea surrounded the high spot on a Pleistocene terminal moraine that became Block Island. The southern New England continental shelf, which lies around Block Island, and the Great Salt Pond, which occupies the Island's interior, have rich marine bottom communities. These communities, consisting mainly of benthic invertebrates and demersal fishes, have long supported productive fisheries. Many studies have described the bottom habitats and communities offshore of the Island, which include hundreds of species, primarily polychaete worms, mollusks, crustaceans, echinoderms, and fishers. The habitats and bottom communities of Great Salt Pond are less well studied, but the pond is generally deeper, saltier, and clearer than salt ponds on the mainland and thus provides a unique ecological niche. Although Block Island's offshore and inland marine bottom communities have undergone many changes on seasonal, decadal, and geological time scales, they have been an essential part of a highly productive ecosystem for thousands of years.