The intertidal zone, also known as the foreshore and seashore and sometimes referred to as the littoral zone, is the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide (in other words, the area between tide marks). This area can include many different types of habitats, with many types of animals like starfish, sea urchins, and some species of coral. The well known area also includes steep rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, or wetlands (e.g., vast mudflats). The area can be a narrow strip, as in Pacific islands that have only a narrow tidal range, or can include many metres of shoreline where shallow beach slopes interact with high tidal excursion.
Organisms in the intertidal zone are adapted to an environment of harsh extremes. Water is available regularly with the tides but varies from fresh with rain to highly saline and dry salt with drying between tidal inundations. The action of waves can dislodge residents in the littoral zone. With the intertidal zone's high exposure to the sun, the temperature range can be anything from very hot with full sun to near freezing in colder climates. Some microclimates in the littoral zone are ameliorated by local features and larger plants such as mangroves. Adaptation in the littoral zone allows the use of nutrients supplied in high volume on a regular basis from the sea which is actively moved to the zone by tides. Edges of habitats, in this case land and sea, are themselves often significant ecologies, and the littoral zone is a prime example.