Algae (Singular: Alga) are a kind of simple plant-like living organisms that contain chlorophyll and can make their own food through the process called photosynthesis. They are morphologically simple and extend from microscopic and unicellular (single-celled) to very large and multi-cellular. They are autotrophic which means they grow using natural sources of energy, mainly, sunlight, carbon-dioxide, and a few nutrients, comprising nitrogen and phosphorous into material termed as biomass. This whole process is known as photosynthesis. They assume a vital part in food chains and in keeping up the oxygen supply on our planet. They are found, mostly, in marine and freshwater environment.
Algae are unique, highly varied and diverse group of organisms. They have no true leaves or roots and even, do not have the type of cell and tissue structure that land plants have. So, they are sometimes considered as “protists” which is a group of related organisms that do not come under being animals, plants, fungi, bacteria or archaeans. The main types of algae comprise Green Algae, Diatoms, Euglenoids and Blue-green Algae.
Here are some fascinating facts about algae:
1 .Blue-green algae, an ancient group of algae, reproduce rapidly in lakes and ponds with sufficient quantity of sunlight, air/water temperature and nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen. The clear water of the pond after a few days can become cloudy with the growth of algae. This is known as bloom and these blooms pollute the water. However, most blooms are not toxic but create bad conditions in the water.
2. Red algae are less common because they have calcium carbonate in their cell walls that makes the plants hard to wear.
3. Brown algae are the largest of the algae found in the tidal zones of temperate to polar seas, and also in the deep ocean.
4. They are ecologically very important as they produce much of Earth’s oxygen. They, approximately, produce 330 billion tons of oxygen every year that accounts for 75% of total oxygen, humans and animals depend upon for respiration.
5. The tiny sea algae, the Dino-flagellate lightens up the sea surface of the Indian Ocean at night in some areas. This light is very bright and can really allow anyone to read newspaper.
6. The first algae may have created the greatest toxic waste crisis in the history by producing oxygen when it was poisonous to the organisms that inhabited the early Earth.
7. Algae can be found everywhere – in extreme environments like subzero glaciers and even hot springs with temperatures up to 100 degree Celsius. They can be found in the deep oceans and also on the mountain peaks.
8. Algae are the producers of oil which they make through the process of photosynthesis and this oil is used by humans in cooking. This oil has a neutral taste and contains low saturated fats. Algal oil is very effective for eye and brain development in humans.
9. Algae have protected themselves from extreme environmental conditions over billions of years with the help of Alguronic Acid. This product is now being used in Skincare to have a younger looking skin.
10. Algae-based advanced bio-fuels can be used with factory-standard diesel engines. This fuel emits out less carbon-dioxide as compared to petroleum-based fuels. So, it helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and thus making the world become less dependent on fossil fuels.
11. Algae help in treating sewage, by reducing the amount of toxic chemicals.
12. Algae are also used as fertilizers, soil conditioners and livestock feed.