Algae are similar to fungi, except they contain chlorophyll and other pigments. Ranging in size from singular celled microscopic organisms to 200 foot long (61 metres) seaweed. They live in fresh water, saltwater and on land. Classified by colour; blue-green, red and brown, red and green, and brown.
Algae may appear on water as patches of green referred to as “pond scum”. On trunks of trees or soil they appear green or blue. At the seashore green, red and brown seaweed may be found. They are the basis of the food chain which makes aquatic life possible and is useful as human food and has industrial uses but in many cases, troublesome. For example they may;
- Import disagreeable taste or odour to drinking water
- Cause bathers to itch
- Poison fish
- Clog water filtering equipment and cooling towers
- Interfere with pulp mill operations
- Foul underwater structures
When water temperature and nutrients reach favourable levels, certain algae multiply rapidly. This is known as “algal bloom” or “pond scum” and this may seriously effect other organic life and water quality. Large accumulations of algae in shallow fish ponds and lakes depletes the oxygen and causes fish kills. Unlike bacteria, viruses and fungi, algae have little direct medical importance to human beings.