Principle 2: The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of the earth
Many earth materials and biogeochemical cycles originate in the ocean. Many of the sedimentary rocks now exposed on land were formed in the ocean. Ocean life laid down the vast volume of siliceous and carbonate rocks.
Sea level changes over time have expanded and contracted continental shelves, created and destroyed inland seas, and shaped the surface of land.
Erosion—the wearing away of rock, soil and other biotic and abiotic earth materials—occurs in coastal areas as wind, waves, and currents in rivers and the ocean, and the processes associated with plate tectonics move sediments. Most beach sand (tiny bits of animals, plants, rocks, and minerals) is eroded from land sources and carried to the coast by rivers; sand is also eroded from coastal sources by surf. Sand is redistributed seasonally by waves and coastal currents.
The ocean is the largest reservoir of rapidly cycling carbon on Earth. Many organisms use carbon dissolved in the ocean to form shells, other skeletal parts, and coral reefs.
Tectonic activity, sea level changes, and the force of waves influence the physical structure and landforms of the coast.