Posted on: August 3, 2012
When you think of algae, you may think of blooms that may be potentially toxic to the aquatic environment. However algae are so much more than that.
If you’ve ever snorkelled around some of WA’s limestone reef areas, for example at Rottnest Island, near Cottesloe Beach or even further south around Dunsborough and Yallingup you would have encountered algae. Algae provides much of the colour we find on a limestone reef and is also a great habitat for many marine creatures.
If you’re not into snorkelling, you’re bound to have come across ‘seaweed’ washed up on our beaches – in the southern part of the state, now is a great time to see this. This mixture of seaweed, or algae, and seagrass that we find washed up on the beaches makes up what is called the ‘seawrack’ (see our blog from June 29 to learn more about seawracks).
The algae we find washed up in the seawrack is called macroalgae, that is, it can be seen with the unaided human eye. Drifting around in the aquatic environment however, is microscopic algae called microalgae. This microalgae is a major component of plankton and are the first link of aquatic food chains, being the main food source for many species.
So in fact, algae are not all bad and you may be surprised to know that you probably use algae more than you think! Some 400 species of algae around the world are used by people for food, stock feed, medicines, cosmetics and fertilisers. Why not conduct a research assignment with your class to investigate just how many products you use have extracts of algae in them? To learn more about algae, check out our brand new Algae Fact Sheet.