Algae play an important role in ecology. Found in oceans, rivers, lakes and even on land, they are more than just marine plants. Their presence affects many aspects of our environment, from climate regulation to the preservation of biodiversity. In this article you will discover how important algae are to ecosystems and why we should preserve them.
A high source of oxygen
Algae produce much of the oxygen we consume. Through photosynthesis, they capture sunlight and absorb carbon dioxide, while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. It has been estimated that almost half of the oxygen we breathe comes from algae. At a time of increasing deforestation, the role of algae is set to change to maintain a balance in the air we breathe.
A positive impact on the climate
They also have a significant impact on the climate of our planet. As they capture CO2 during photosynthesis, they play a major role, just like land plants, in regulating this greenhouse gas. By doing so, they help to mitigate climate change by limiting the increase in the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere.
A natural filter in the water
Algae act as natural filters in aquatic ecosystems. They absorb nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater and agricultural runoff, thereby reducing pollution of marine areas. This capacity is essential to keep aquatic organisms alive and to maintain water quality. However, as the years go by and pollution increases, some species of algae grow too much thanks to the nutrients they ingest. An example we all know in Brittany is the green algae tides which are responsible for many accidents.
A habitat for many species
They provide a vital habitat for many aquatic species. Micro-organisms, fish and marine mammals use algae in a variety of ways: as a nursery, as a breeding ground and as a refuge. They are also a source of food for many marine organisms. They are therefore essential for maintaining marine biodiversity and protecting ecosystems.
Algoculture: a practice that is good for the environment
With the increasing popularity of seaweed around the world, a new practice has been devised to meet the demand. This is algoculture, a practice that refers to the mass cultivation of seaweed. This type of cultivation has a positive impact on the environment and ecology. As you can see in this article, algae are crucial for maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems and for combating climate change. Moreover, this type of cultivation does not require the use of fertilisers or pesticides.
Some programmes and projects to protect these marine plants:
- Projects of restoration of eelgrass beds
- The fight against green algae (PLAV)
- The European Commission has set up the "Towards a strong and sustainable EU seaweed sector
– Project implemented by the Lloyd's Register Foundationin partnership with the CNRS and UN Global Compact, to better support the industrial development of the
algae industry, with the support of the research community
- Implementation of the "Kelp Forest Challenge (the challenge to replant kelp forests), the aim is to plant one million hectares of kelp forest
National Geographic - Overfishing: is aquaculture a sustainable solution?
National Geographic - Algae forests: an effective tool against climate change
Seaweed, a promising way to preserve the planet
Biodiversity: giant underwater algae provide unsuspected services
The future of algae in our society
Ecological benefits of algaculture
1 million hectares of Kelp forests must be planted by 2040 to preserve this fragile ecosystem