International
via Flickr

World - Could Algae Solve the Global Climate Crisis

Algae can be utilized as a part of the mitigation strategy to reduce concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere associated with greenhouse gases and the global climate crisis. Here we discuss what makes algae so special, the global climate crisis, and the part algae can play in helping to combat the effects of global warming.

So why are algae so special?

Algae are photosynthetic organisms with plat-like characteristics mainly found in aquatic environments. They are classified Protista and sometimes Plantae, though this latter designation draws controversy. But whatever the taxonomical rank assigned, there is no doubting the enormous significance of these tremendously productive organisms.

There are seven types of algae, categorized based on pigmentation type and food reserves: green algae (Chlorophyta), euglenoids (Euglenophyta) , golden-brown algae and diatoms (Chrysophyta), fire algae (Pyrrophyta), red algae (Rhodophyta), yellow-green algae (Xanthophyta), and brown algae (Paeophyta).

Algae produce a vast quantity (thought to be about half) of the oxygen in the oceans, rivers, and lakes of the world. This feat is miraculously achieved at only roughly 1/10th of the biomass of the entire plant population on Earth. Algae need nitrogen, phosphate, water, CO2   and sunlight for efficient growth.

The main composition of algae comprises carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, carotenoids such as lutein, astaxanthin and fucoxanthin, and nucleic acids. The specific composition is dependent on algal strain and can also be influenced by method of cultivation. Algae possess notable capacities for photosynthesis and thus CO2   sequestration, excessive biomass production, high lipid accumulation and the production of valuable non-fuel co-products.

That algae sequester carbon for growth makes these organisms an invaluable asset in the mitigation of greenhouse gases and climate change and their integral role in our world's oceanic and coastal ecosystems means they are an important blue carbon sink. Research has also demonstrated the superior capacity of algae to produce bioenergy, biofuels, and biomaterials from terrestrial biomass ––most of this a by-product of agricultural or biodegradable waste.

The climate change problem

Climate change refers to shifts in average temperature and weather patterns over time that occurs because of an increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. GHG emissions alongside industrialization, ocean acidification, soil erosion and deforestation are all implicated in the process of climate change. The concomitant increase in CO2   levels accounts for more than half of the warming potential.

Read more.