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The Basics: Algae

Algae represent a large, diverse group of plants whose size ranges from unicellular (e.g. Chlorella, purported 'super food' of the 1940's) to lengths of over 50 metres (e.g. giant kelp).  They can be distinguished from many land plants by their lack of specific tissue types such as xylem, phloem and stomata.  They also lack the structures that are ubiquitous with land plants (roots and leaves).

Producing between seventy and eighty percent of the air we breathe, algae plays a fundamentally important role on a global scale.  It is in this light that they are often regarded as the single most important organisms on the planet. They are also act as the foundation for much of the oceanic food-chain.

In spite of this, there are instances where algal growth is undesired.  Negative effects of excessive growth (algal bloom) include:

  • Clogging of machinery (e.g. water treatment pumps)
  • Unsightly surface scum
  • Reduction in water clarity
  • Production of noxious odours
  • Eutrophication can induce hypoxia (oxygen depletion), leading to fish kill

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