The photic zone or euphotic zone (Greek for "well lit": εὖ "well" + φῶς "light") is the depth of the water in a lake or ocean that is exposed to sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. The depth of the photic zone can be affected greatly by seasonal turbidity.
It extends from the atmosphere-water interface downwards to a depth where light intensity falls to one percent of that at the surface, called the euphotic depth. Accordingly, its thickness varies widely on the extent of light attenuation in the water column. Typical euphotic depths vary from only a few centimetres in highly turbid eutrophic lakes, to around 200 metres in the open ocean.
Since the photic zone is where almost all of the primary productivity occurs, the depth of the photic zone is generally proportional to the level of primary productivity that occurs in that area of the ocean. About 90% of all marine life lives in the photic zone. A small amount of primary production is generated deep in the abyssal zone around the hydrothermal vents which exist along some mid-oceanic ridges.
The zone which extends from the base of the euphotic zone to about 200 metres is sometimes called the disphotic zone. While there is some light, it is insufficient for photosynthesis, or at least insufficient for photosynthesis at a rate greater than respiration. The euphotic zone together with the disphotic zone coincides with the epipelagic zone. The bottommost zone, below the euphotic zone, is called the aphotic zone. Most deep ocean waters belong to this zone.
The transparency of the water, which determines the depth of the photic zone, is measured simply with a Secchi disk. It may also be measured with a photometer lowered into the water.
- ^ Photic zone Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 14 August 2009.