Thursday, September 18, 2014

Plant Profile - ALGAE!!!

Its almost not fair to this group of plants to try and lump them all into one post, but we are going to try anyway!  Algae are quite possible the most diverse and widespread of our aquatic plants being found in salt, brackish, and freshwaters worldwide. Although considered "simple" in their cellular structure (made up of only one cell!), algae are some of the most important organisms on this entire planet!  Did you know that algae provide the base of MANY aquatic (and even terrestrial) food chains supporting organisms all the way up the chain, even whales!  If thats not enough, algae produce between 40-50% of the oxygen that we breathe through the simple energy making plant process of photosynthesis!  Becoming a little more accepting of the algae group now aren't we?!?

It is estimated that more than 100,000 algal species exist!  Although all algae contain chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants), other pigments are often present and and make some algae different colors. Green algae are green because of chlorophyll, but diatoms and dinoflagellates are brown because xanthophyll pigments are present in higher concentrations than chlorophyll. The blue-green algae (also called the cyanobacteria, not technically an algae) contain phycocyanin, a blue pigment that, along with chlorophyll, gives the cells a bluish-green color.
Chara, a genus of macroalgae.

We often don't think algae are present in the water, but the truth is, we often don't even notice them until they grow rapidly (called a bloom).  Blooms can often be associated with "yucky" looking water. It is these algae thatoften need to be managed because of the problems they can cause, including fish kills through the depletion of oxygen.
Lyngbya wollei, a problematic cyanobacteria
Algae problems aren't "self fueled" organisms however and are often the result of too many natural- or human-derived nutrients in a body of water. When adequate light, nutrients and water are available, algae will grow, and sometimes grow in excess. Blooms are a natural process however, and the extent and intensity of a bloom will determine how "problematic" it can become.  The algae that cause most problems are blue-green algae (cyanobacteria).

To learn more about the algae group, visit our best management practices handbook.  Chapter 13 (page 97) explores the biology of algae and some basic methods for management while Chapter 14 (page 105) covers noxious algae management.   Click HERE for the BMP manual.

To learn more about the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation, visit our website!

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Stay tuned for more of the latest in aquatic plant science, management, and innovation with the AERF Update!

Excerpts, photos, and information source - BMP Manual Third Edition

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