Encyclopedia of Marine Geosciences

Living Edition
| Editors: Jan Harff, Martin Meschede, Sven Petersen, Jörn Thiede

Marginal Seas

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6644-0_187-1



In geology, a marginal sea is the sea bordering continents, semi-isolated from open ocean by island arc or land ridge, and underlain by oceanic crust (Karig 1971). Thus a marginal sea is a deep-sea basin with water depth in general over ~3,000 m, while its slopes and shelves are called as its continental margins.

As a geographic and oceanographic term, a “marginal sea” represents a partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to open ocean at the surface, but bounded by submarine ridges on the seafloor (Wikipedia). The presence of oceanic crust is not required.

As a geopolitical term, a marginal sea is equivalent to a territorial water, which is important in determining what maritime resources that a state can exploit (Wikipedia).

Geographic Distribution

The marginal seas in geological context are distributed mainly in western Pacific Ocean, forming a giant sea chain of ~12,000 km long from the north to the south. A...


Oceanic Crust Open Ocean Seafloor Spreading Western Boundary Current Western Pacific Ocean 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina