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Introduction to Phycology

What is phycology: Phycology is the science (gr. logos) of algae (gr. phycos). This discipline deals with the morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny, biology, and ecology of algae in all ecosystems

Where are algae abound?

  • Kelp forrest up to 50 m hight are the marine equivalent to terrestrial forrest; mainly built by brown algae

  • Some algae encrust with carbonate, building reef-like structures; cyanobacteria can from rock-like structures in warm tidal areas: stromatolites

  • Algae grow or are attached to animals and serve as camouflage for the animal

  • Algae live as symbionts in animals such as Hydra, corals, or the protozoan ciliate Paramecium; 

  • in corals they are referred to as zooxanthellae
  • Small algae live on top of larger algae: epiphyton
  • Algae in free water: phytoplankton
  • Terrestrial algae
    • Algae have adapted to life on land and occur as cryptobiotic crusts in desert and grassland soils or endocryptolithis algae in rocks 

    • Algae live on the snow cover of glaciers and in the brine channels of sea ice

    • A symbiosis of algae and fungi produced the lichens, which are pioneer plants, help convert rock into soil by excreting acids, stabilize desert soil, are sensitive to air pollution

    • Algae can cover trees or buildings green or live in the hollow hairs of ice bears
Algal Blooms
  • Algae can be so dominant that they discolor the water 
  • Higher amounts of nutrients are ususally the cause
  • Algal blooms can have harmful effects on life and ecosystem:
    • Reduced water clarity causes benthic communities (seegrass) to die off
    • Fish kills are common effects
    • 50% of algal blooms produce toxins harmful to other organisms, including humans
    • Algal blooms produce a shift in food web structure and species composition
  • Algal blooms can mostly be linked to sewage input or agricultural activities, leading to nutrient pollution: eutrophication