Sea Cliffs

Atlantic Puffins on Mykines.
Atlantic Puffins on Mykines. Photo © Life On White / Getty Images.

Sea cliffs are high, rocky coasts that plunge down to the sea's edge. These harsh environments are subject to the battering of waves, wind, and salt-laden sea spray. Conditions on a sea cliff vary as you move up the cliff, with waves and sea spray playing larger parts in shaping the communities at the base of a sea cliff while wind, weather, and sun exposure are the driving forces that shape the communities towards the top of a sea cliff.

Sea cliffs provide ideal nesting habitat for many species of sea birds such as gannets, cormorants, kittiwakes, and guillemots. Some cliff-nesting species form large, dense nesting colonies that stretch across the face of the cliff, taking advantage of every inch of available rock.

At the base of the cliff, the pommeling by the surf prohibits all but the most tenacious of animals from surviving there. Mollusks and other invertebrates such as crabs and echinoderms occasionally find shelter behind rocky outcrops or tucked within tiny crevices. The top of the sea cliff is often more forgiving than its base and can be frequented by wildlife from surrounding terrain. Often, the craggy edges at the top of a cliff provide ideal habitat for small mammals, reptiles, and birds.

Habitat Classification:

  • Ecozones: Terrestrial / Marine
  • Ecosystem: Beaches / Coasts
  • Habitat: Sea Cliffs


Birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles.

Where to See:

Sea cliffs are located along rocky coastlines throughout the world.

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Your Citation
Klappenbach, Laura. "Sea Cliffs." ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2016, Klappenbach, Laura. (2016, February 17). Sea Cliffs. Retrieved from Klappenbach, Laura. "Sea Cliffs." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 17, 2018).