Diversity in the East African Marine ecoregion

The beaches and coastal mud flats

The beaches and coastal mud flats of the region provide feeding and breeding areas for about 35 species of resident and migratory seabirds. Between October and March each year, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds fly from their breeding grounds in northern Europe to feed on the mud flats of the large mangrove estuaries of Lamu in Kenya, the Rufiji River in Tanzania and the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique.

Other resident seabirds, nesting on small, isolated islands will scout the seas for hundreds of kilometres in search of sardines and anchovies to feed their young.

Seagrass beds
Further down the shore, seagrasses form extensive beds on mud and sand, to depths of 15m or more, though they are restricted in their depth range by the presence of light. These are the only true flowering plants to have colonised the sea and 12 species are found in the region.

Seagrass beds are home to thousands of small species of animals and plants including seaweeds, sponges, worms, crabs, shrimps, marine snails, starfish, sea cucumbers and fish. Some of these depend on the seagrass beds for shelter, food or as nursery grounds. Much larger creatures like the Dugong (or sea cow, a distant relative of the elephant) and marine turtles also feed on seagrasses.

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