Microorganisms Important to the Oceans Ecosystem

All living things are interconnected in nature. Within an ecosystem, one or more species depend on one another for survival, and at the bottom of individual ecosystems, there is an organism which functions as the base of other species. This organism supports other organisms and prevents disappearance of species. Phytoplankton (single-celled algae or bacteria) are tiny microorganisms important to the ocean’s ecosystem. these plants are at the base of the marine food chain. It’s more abundant in fresh water where there is more abundant nutrients.

Algae are a group of organisms (autotrophic) that are important to life on the planet, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps. Algae are photosynthetic, that is to say, they’re able to convert solar energy into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. Algae are the primary producer in the marine food chain, as they provide the primary energy source for many marine organisms. Single-celled algae, known as phytoplankton, are the basis of most marine food chains, and they produce almost half of the oxygen we breathe. There are dozens of beneficial species of algae; however, there are species that produce harm, as well.

Phytoplankton inhabits almost every ocean and bodies of fresh water on the planet. They´re photosynthetic (convert solar energy to chemical energy) microorganisms. They’re primary producers and create organic compounds from carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in water. Phytoplankton produces much of the oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere. Phytoplankton is the main source of food for krill (crustacean similar to a tiny shrimp), which in turn is the source of food for Baleen Whales.

Unlike communities inland, where most autotrophs are plants, phytoplankton are more diverse in which they include protistan eukaryotes (with a nucleus), as well as eubacterial and archaebacterial prokaryotes (without a nucleus). There are approximately 5,000 species of marine phytoplankton, and the most important groups of phytoplankton include cyanobacteria, diatoms, and dinoflagellates. Coccolithophorids, one group of phytoplankton, is responsible for the release of significant amounts of dimethyl sulfide, which in some areas, provides cloud condensation nuclei.

Cyanobacteria (blue-green-algae) perform photosynthesis using sunlight, water, and CO2 to produce carbohydrates and oxygen. Cyanobacteria derive its name from the color of the bacteria. According to astrobio.net, cyanobacteria became the first microorganisms to perform oxygenic photosynthesis, creating oxygen in the atmosphere some 2.3 billion years ago. Over its evolutionary history, cyanobacteria have formed endosymbiotic associations with higher plants and animals, including ferns, cycads, diatoms, lichens, seaweed, and even polar bears.

Giant Kelp, the most recognized species of brown macroalgae, is found predominantly on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to the waters of Baja California. Kelp forest provides food and shelter for great numbers of fish and shellfish. This type of brown algae grows in water conditions where sunlight penetrates easily. A large number of invertebrates, marine mammals, fish, and birds inhabit kelp forest sanctuaries. This variety of marine life supports thousands of invertebrates. Marina animals, including Whales, sea lions, and sea otters feed on kelp forests. Other large animals, such as gray whales have been spotted finding refuge in kelp forests from killer whale predators.

According to noaa.gov, harmful algal blooms (HABs) are estimated to have caused $1 billion in losses to coastal resources and communities. In some instances, algae can grow at unusual rapid rates, overgrowing other species, altering habitats, or depleting oxygen. Even though algae can produce oxygen, huge quantities of decaying algae can cause depletion. Some algae may produce harmful toxins, presenting a deadly threat to other species. The harmful impacts of HABs affect fish, as well as human illness, including death.