Algae are critical to life on Earth. Because they are able to convert solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis, algae are key primary producers in many marine food webs (that is, they provide the primary energy source for many other marine organisms). They are responsible for half of the oxygen produced on Earth. There are thousands of species of beneficial algae; but there are also a few dozen species that cause problems. These species become noticeable during periodic events known as “harmful algal blooms” (HABs).
In the last two decades, HABs are estimated to have caused as much as $1 billion in losses to coastal resources and communities. HABs are becoming a global threat to living resources, fishing, tourism, and human health because the number and intensity of these events appear to be increasing in many countries. In this activity, students will investigate eight types of Harmful Algal Blooms, including an example of how scientific perspectives can change rapidly as a result of new research.
This activity was created by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (an office of the National Ocean Service) through a partnership with the National Science Foundation, EPA, NASA, and the Office of Naval Research.