FACTOID # 14: North Carolina has a larger Native American population than North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana combined.
 
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Encyclopedia > Continental shelves

The continental shelf is an area of relatively shallow sea water that is found on the edge of each continent. The shelf typically ends at a very steep slope (called the shelf break). The sea bottom below the break is the continental slope which has a much steeper gradient than the shelf. It merges into the ocean floor.


The width of the continental shelf varies significantly. It is quite common for an area to have virtually no shelf at all. The largest shelf - the Siberian shelf in the Arctic Ocean - stretches to 1500 kilometers in width. The average width is about 80 kilometers. The depth of the shelf also varies. It may be as shallow as 30 meters or as deep as 600.


The continental shelf is by far the best understood part of the oceans on account of its relative accessibility. Virtually all commercial exploitation, such as oil and gas extraction, from the sea takes place on the continental shelf.


  Results from FactBites:
 
Continental shelf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (797 words)
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent, which is covered during interglacial periods such as the current epoch by relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs.
Though the continental shelf is treated as a physiographic province of the ocean, it is not part of the deep ocean basin proper, but the flooded margins of the continent.
The pelagic (water column) environment of the continental shelf constitutes the neritic zone, and the benthic (sea floor) province of the shelf is the sublittoral zone.
M15.htm (374 words)
Continental shelves make up the fringes of both the oceans and continents, comprising about 7.4% of the total ocean surface, and less than 2% of the total volume of the world's oceans.
The widths of continental shelves vary considerably, in some areas they are very wide (about 1500 km), while in other areas a shelf barely exists at all.
Because continental shelf waters are so shallow, most of the biomass produced in the water column does not have far to sink before it is intercepted by the bottom and the benthic biota.
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