We know a lot about plants, because they are always in our sight. Take a look around and you will realize that there are always plants around you: trees or bushes, flowers or grass. Back in school we learned about the environmental benefits of vegetation, learned the basics of selection and varieties of crops, and so on. We know much less about the ocean flora, despite the fact that the total amount of aquatic vegetation is much larger than the terrestrial one. We believe that you need to know about the role of algae in the life of our planet and tell you how beneficial or dangerous algae are for the environment.
What is algae?
Technically, algae are not really plants. Despite that they look like grass or another kind of woodless terrestrial plant, scientists divide algae into several species, each of which belongs to a different kingdom (or regnum of life). The most ancient type of algae is blue-green algae, single-celled organisms that are capable of photosynthesis. They go their name because of the distinctive color in which the large groups of such algae color the water. The kingdom Plantae includes red and green algae, which differ in a more complex structure. It is red algae that make up the majority of the inhabitants of the seas and oceans, so we will talk about them in more detail. Brown, yellow-green and golden algae belong to the Kingdom of Chromists. In general, different types of algae are united by the fact that they live in an aquatic environment and are capable of photosynthesis.
Where do they grow?
A huge number of algae species explains their presence in almost all reservoirs of the planet where there is access to sunlight. Algae grows in rivers and lakes, seas and oceans. Judging by the fact that the World Ocean occupies more than 2/3 of the planet, there are much more of these water organisms than terrestrial plants. Most algae exist near the surface of the water, or at a shallow depth, because they need sunlight to function properly. Some, thanks to evolutionary changes, have adapted to life on land. Today we will focus on ocean and marine algae, because they are able to influence the entire ecosystem of the planet.
How do they live?
It is known that algae produce a huge amount of oxygen. The modern gas balance in the atmosphere was caused by the algae. But their life cycle is more than the production of oxygen. The algae grow in groups, they either make the underwater forests (red and green algae) or cover the surfaces of the water reservoirs (blue-green algae). Some species form a symbiotic relationship with other living organisms, mostly shrooms, forming lichens. Algae can reproduce both asexually and sexually. Some types of algae can use the sea currents to spread its spores. Since algae convert about 10% of solar energy into organic compounds, they can be considered the most energy-efficient phototrophic organisms on the planet. When dying, algae form a silty layer at the bottom of the reservoir, and when decomposed – carbon dioxide in large quantities
Do they affect the marine life?
The main amount of oxygen as a result of photosynthesis of algae is released into water. They provide marine life with air, the excess of which is released into the atmosphere in the form of gas bubbles. Without algae, ocean life in its current form is impossible. In addition to oxygen production – algae also serve as food for almost all types of organic life in the ocean. These are fish, shellfish, crustaceans and many others. Phytoplankton, consisting of single-celled algae – is the main food of some large marine mammals. Some fish use algae as a temporary shelter while spawning. But there is a negative effect from the life of algae. Due to global warming and the greenhouse effect, the average ocean temperature has increased in recent years and the growth of algae has become more active. This entailed the effect of blooming water when the surface of the water is painted in the color of the algae that inhabit it
How do they help the water?
Unfortunately, our planet is not in its best condition. This is largely due to human activities. Under normal growth conditions, algae only improve the state of the aquatic environment. In nature, they serve as a filter for any pollutants, both man-made and natural. Algae copes well with toxins and inorganic waste. They may choose to live on plastic and rubber waste, thereby making it safer for fish, as well as attracting shellfish, which, eating algae, settle on pieces of garbage and pull it to the bottom. A small amount of rotting algae settles to the bottom, forming a fertile muddy soil. Silt is the first step to greening the land. First, the algae settle on lifeless rocks, then form a layer of silt and provoke the growth of small plants on land.
Are they important for the planet?
The state of our planet is also directly dependent on the state of the algae population. Many factors suggest that global climate change was caused by these simple organisms. For example, it is believed that it was unicellular algae that turned the earth’s fauna inside out, more than 3 billion years ago. Back then, the overwhelming majority of animals could exist with a minimum amount of oxygen, and the ancestors of modern animals huddled in small oxygen pockets. Algae changed the composition of the atmosphere and thereby significantly accelerated evolution. And even nowadays, the seaweed can affect the terrestrial creatures. Algae is the main food of some birds and amphibians. Lichens form a natural protection for trees in tundra and woodlands
It’s amazing how little we know about algae. Their impact on the environment cannot be overestimated. Unfortunately, human activities endanger the existence of certain types of algae, which will lead to disastrous consequences for us. We care about the environment and offer to join our movement. Pollution of the atmosphere and hydrosphere must be stopped. Factories, factories, deforestation for the needs of animal husbandry, human waste – all this affects not only terrestrial creatures, but also marine inhabitants. And algae are perhaps the most numerous of them. Thank them for laying the foundations of life on Earth a few billion years ago and giving us the opportunity to be born.