Algae are simple, photosynthetic, plantlike organisms. They are usually single-celled but different kinds of algae also exist as multicellular organisms. Algae are the green froth seen above the surface of ponds. They are a diverse group of entities and some of their kind are microscopic and not visible to the naked eye. It is generally believed that algae are harmful for the environment and aquatic life, but limited amount of algae is also necessary for a healthy pond.
Algae are found in freshwater, seawater and also may grow in damp soil and rocks. They can withstand and grow in both hot and cold waters. Single-celled algae grow by simply dividing themselves into two. They can also reproduce through asexual reproduction and feed themselves by making food through the process of photosynthesis, like plants. Some types also feed on symbiotic, parasitic and saprophytic relationships with other trees or aquatic plants.
One of the major benefits that can be derived from algae is the algae biofuel. Energy resources such as oil, gas and petrol have begun to fall short to meet the world's requirements. To cope up with this, scientists have come up with a way to make fuel out of plant material. The oil content in some algae is up to 40 per cent that can be processed to produce biodiesel. Algae with high concentrations of carbohydrates can be utilised to produce ethanol.
Contrary to traditional belief, there are a number of ways in which algae can be used to benefit human beings. Algae are rich in proteins, minerals and nutrients and can be used as fertilisers for better crops. Different kinds of algae are used in various medications, cosmetics, livestock feed and for pollution control. Aquatic animals also largely benefit from algae as they provide food for microorganism on which fishes can feed. It also provides shade to the aquatic animals living in the ponds and also enriches water with oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, which again benefits the aquatic animals.
Other than being beneficial for the marine life, excessive amounts of algae is also harmful to them. Due to rapid reproduction, algae sometimes block sunlight from reaching the aquatic plants, which results in their deaths. Hair algae growing in water may cause the death of aquatic animals due to strangulation.
The process of deriving biofuel from algae is expensive and requires constant temperatures and, therefore, cannot be fully taken advantage of. Other than being harmful for aquatic animals, algae also kill environmental beauty as the ponds covered with algae look dirty and ugly.