Algal Growth and Global Warming

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Global warming has occurred due to the adverse effects of climate change globally. In a bid to control the phenomenon, scientists and environmentalists have proposed various approaches geared at decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the air. Phytoplankton such as algae use up carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, and increasing the algal population is thought to increase the natural carbon sink. The algal bloom will utilize carbon dioxide in high amounts; thus, reducing its amounts in the environment.

Algae require iron as a micronutrient for essential biological processes such as photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation and assimilation, porphyrin biosynthesis, and respiration. Oceans generally have low levels of iron that do not favor the growth of large populations of plants, which explains why the ocean waters are blue and clear. Thus, fertilizing the oceans with iron will spur the growth of the algae and other phytoplankton. This is a good solution to reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide significantly, but it has its downside (Choi, 2010).

Algal Growth and Global Warming

Boosting algal growth using iron fertilization in the ocean could trigger the growth of harmful algae such as Pseudo-nitschia. Large populations of the algae emit toxins such as domoic acid, which are hazardous to the marine population. The toxin contaminates the marine biodiversity, poses a risk to the mammals and birds that feed on the contaminated fish, and closes the sardines and shellfish fisheries. The Pseudo-nitschia is a naturally rare species in the oceans, but thrives well in areas rich in iron. Thus, an iron input significantly increases the algal bloom since they are overly responsive to iron. Overgrowth of the toxic algae is hazardous to the human and animal health because its blooms can easily contaminate the food chain, causing poisoning. Iron fertilization increases the population of phytoplankton such as algae, significantly reducing the amount of carbon dioxide by creating natural sinks that help in curbing global warming (Choi, 2010). Conversely, enriching the oceans with iron could lead to the growth of harmful algal species that could poison the food chain of both animals and humans.

My reservation in the approach is the impending danger of the growth of harmful algae that may cause the death of marine life and other animals feeding on contaminated animals and plants. However, the approach is commendable since it aims at reducing the excess carbon dioxide in the air by boosting the algal population that utilizes the carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Scientists should devise ways of ensuring that only the useful algae grow in the oceans for ecological benefit.

The video gave insight on the structure of the diatoms and their adaptive features. It has highlighted some of the various forms of algae and their distinctive features. The structure of the diatom is elaborated by giving the various features that adapt it to survive. Its cell is enclosed in silica, which is a transparent protecting case that also allows light to penetrate the chloroplasts for photosynthesis. The protective casing is so heavy that the diatom has to find ways of maintaining buoyancy. One of the ways of regulating buoyancy is by producing oil droplets, which are lighter than water and serve as storage for energy acquired through photosynthesis. The diatoms can regulate the amount of oil produced, enabling them to control their balance in the open waters. The other adaptive feature of the diatom is the shape of the protective casing that has two, long spines that serve as stabilizers and protect the planktons from sinking (Scivee-team, 2007).

Some algae swim by the help of flagella that spin them through the waters towards light for photosynthesis. Other algae such as Netrium are bottom dwellers, which are large unicellular algae. The algae are an essential part of the lake ecosystem because they convert energy into food through photosynthesis. The alga, sea palm or Postelsia palmaeformis is an intertidal brown alga able to withstand strong waves enabling it to inhabit less competitive areas of the seashores. In the open waters, most algae have to compete for food and light with other microscopic organisms, making them develop adaptive features for survival. Some have adopted a different ecological niche by living on an animal host while others live inside the host. For example, some algae live inside flatworm tissues and develop a symbiotic relationship. The algae share food produced via synthesis with the worm while the worm swims in well-lit areas to expose the algae to maximum sunlight for photosynthesis (Scivee-team, 2007).

Prokaryotes are animals whose cells lack a nucleus and their DNA is distributed across the cell. They include the blue-green algae and cyanobacteria. The prokaryotes inhabit low-oxygen areas rich in organic matter such as in a slimy coat of an unattended aquarium and ponds. The prokaryotes locomote via a gliding mechanism; the bacterium glides through the strands of the blue-green alga. Prokaryotes constitute of only the blue-green algae and the bacterium while the eukaryotes, which have nucleated cells, are composed of the higher forms of life including all other types of algae. Cells with a nucleus and those that lack one form the basic distinction of all life forms on earth.

References
  • Choi, C. Q. (2010). Adding Iron to ocean would backfire, algae study suggests. Live Science. Retrieved on 3 May 2014 from http://www.livescience.com/11112-adding-iron-ocean-backfire-algae-study-suggests.html
  • Scivee-team. (Producer). (2007). The biology of algae [Motion picture]. (Available from Sci Vee).

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