The algae, comprising some 18000 species, are true plants, since they use chlorophyll to photosynthesize (see Chapter 8). The division Chlorophyta (green algae) contains single-celled organisms that require water for reproduction and can present problems when blocking irrigation lines and clogging water tanks. Marine algal species in Phaeophyta (brown algae) and Rhodophyta (red algae) are multicellular, and have leaf-like structures. They include the seaweeds, which accumulate mineral nutrients, and are therefore a useful source of compound fertilizer as a liquid feed. (The blue-green algae, which can cause problems in water because they produce unsightly blooms but are also toxic, have been renamed cyano-bacteria and placed in Kingdom Prokaryotae.)
Classification is complex, since each lichen consists of both fungal and algal parts. Both organisms are mutually beneficial or symbiotic. The significance of lichens to horticulture is not great. Of the 15 000 species, one species is considered a food delicacy in Japan. However, lichens growing on tree bark or walls are very sensitive to atmospheric pollution, particularly to the sulphur dioxide content of the air. Different lichen species can withstand varying levels of sulphur dioxide, and a survey of lichen species can be used to indicate levels of atmospheric pollution in a particular area. Many contribute to the weathering of rock in the initial stages of soil development (see p300). Lichens are also used as a natural dye, and can form an important part of the diet of some deer.
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