When you hear about algae and cyanobacteria and realize that these are living organisms, you would probably wonder why such things even exist. Bacteria are harmful, right? And aren’t algal blooms the stuff that makes the water look dirty?
The same sort of thinking probably doesn’t go for plants, since we all know that plants are important for ecological balance and also to serve as food for us, humans. But what about those plants that do not seem to have any purpose, such as those weeds that emerge out of nowhere near our beloved plants and steal nutrients and occupy space for seemingly no good reason?
The truth is that algae, cyanobacteria, and all plants are important because they are major components of our ecosystem. Even though it may not seem like it, there would be some kind of imbalance in nature if these things did not exist. And we don’t want imbalances in nature. That would result in consequences none of us wants.
Getting to Know Algae
Have you seen water in a lake–or even the sea–turn as green as a smoothie made out of green fruits and vegetables? That is called an algal bloom. An algal bloom is defined as a rapid increase in the number of algae present in a body of saltwater or freshwater. It is made of numerous algae, which are microscopic plantlike organisms that contain the pigment chlorophyll. This pigment, which is often found in plants, is what makes them turn the water green.
There are two main groups of algae namely, microalgae and macroalgae. Often, algae are microscopic (they are often made only of one or several cells), and if they fit this criterion then they are called microalgae. Otherwise, they are classified as macroalgae. Macroalgae come in different colors (they may be green, red, brown, or blue) and forms (they may be lengthy or they may appear as mats). Macroalgae are pretty much what we call seaweeds.
Biologically speaking, algae are important because they are an important component of the food web. The food web refers to the complex relationships of different organisms based on their feeding habits.
Algae are important because fishes and crustaceans feed on a certain type of microalgae called phytoplankton. Macroalgae, on the other hand, can improve the fertility of the soil and they may also serve as a good source of nutrients once they begin to decompose. In addition to that, did you know that the seaweeds that we, humans, love to eat are algae?
Algae also have many proven benefits. For example, research has shown that they have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Getting to Know Cyanobacteria
When we hear about bacteria, we usually often think about it being a bad thing. To most of us, bacteria are nothing more than those microorganisms that we don’t want on our skin or in our food because they can cause infection and disease. Also, too many, the thought of bacteria is simply gross.
But not all bacteria are bad. We have bacteria in our body and they are there because believe it or not, they serve a highly important function in keeping us healthy.
Other types of useful bacteria may not be found in the human body and the list includes cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are tiny organisms that can photosynthesize. They can survive even in extreme conditions, such as in hot springs and cold lakes.
Even though cyanobacteria are small, they are very useful. They may be a source of antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anticancer activities. However, perhaps their most important function is that they can convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate or ammonia, both of which are forms of nitrogen that are essential to the survival of plants. Plants that survive because of the help of cyanobacteria then photosynthesize and provide oxygen for us, humans.
Getting to Know Plants
Unlike the first two organismal groups discussed here, plants are something we are all too familiar with. Plants are everywhere, in our lawns, in the pots inside our houses, and probably even on our plate for dinner.
But to have a deeper understanding of the importance of plants, we should go back to the basics about these unique groups of organisms. Plants are multicellular organisms and what sets them apart from humans and animals is that even though they are undoubtedly much less mobile, they are capable of doing photosynthesis, which is a biological process that allows them to make food for themselves, thus making them “independent.”
There are so many plant groups known today so we won’t be discussing all of those here now, but basically what is important to note is that plants come in different shapes, types, sizes, thicknesses, and colors. Because of this, various plants also have various functions.
First of all, plants serve as a food source for herbivorous and omnivorous animals. Not only that, but plants are also a major food source for us humans, and they are also obtained to be used as raw materials for many food products. Plants can even be used in the production of items such as bags, hats, and furniture, as well.
Above all those is what must be the most important function of plants, which is its function in the ecosystem. Remember how plants can photosynthesize and make their food? Well, this process also leads to the production of oxygen. Humans and animals, later on, take in these molecules of oxygen. As we know, oxygen is essential in our survival.
So what would happen if algae, cyanobacteria, and plants are wiped out?
To put it simply, if algae, cyanobacteria, and plants were wiped out, then maybe our species would cease to exist as well since these organisms provide substances that are essential to our survival, even though they may seem to be unimportant.
If you ever wondered what would happen if algae, cyanobacteria, and plants were wiped out, the simple answer to that would be: it would be bad since they help maintain the balance on this planet. They are components of a cycle that also include us, humans, so if you take them out of the picture, chances are, it won’t take long before our species get wiped out, too.
Now that you know that, then maybe one day you can share your newly gained knowledge with someone who has the same question in the future.