Algae are divided into macroalgae which are commonly known as seaweed and microalgae which are sometimes known as phytoplankton. Both macroalgae and microalgae produce oxygen.
Marcoalgae are large algae and they look like plants. They are multicellular as they contain many cells. They contain a “holdfast” which can be attached to sand, boats or rocks. They contain a “stipe” similar to a stem of plants. They contain “blades” similar to leaves of a plant and a collection of blades are called “fronds”. Some macroalgae have “air-bladders” this helps them float to the surface to catch the sun. Other macroalgae have no “air-bladders” just long flexible stipes. Macroalgae are divided into brown, green and red macroalgae. The different colours are due to the pigments brown, green and red pigments within the macroalgae.
There is another type of marine alga which is called “Maerl”. These are very small and are unattached to rocks so they live on the sea bed. They have a hard calcium crust and are red or brown in colour. Whenever they die they lose their colour and turn grey.
Microalgae are much smaller organisms. They can only be seen under a microscope. They are unicellular which means they have only one cell. They are like floating plants and they are unattached. There are two common types of microalgae. Diatoms are one variety and they have oil within their bodies. This helps them to float. Dinoflagelletes are another variety of microalgae which have “flagella”. The flagella help the dinoflagellates to swim. Certain varieties of dinoflagellates glow in the dark at night when disturbed.
“Algae is a fast-growing plant organism with many beneficial properties. It converts sunlight, CO2, and nutrients into organic matter that can replace many commonly used oils and animal and plant proteins. It is also an effective carbon sink, water nutrient filter, and an efficient land/water source of food and fuel energy. In addition, algae has various applications in the biofuel, bioplastics, fertilizer, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and nutritional supplement industries, as well as in animal and fish feed production. Moreover, as it contains a high percentage of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Algae oil, for example, is an ideal alternative to the increasingly scarce and expensive fish oil, and in high demand in the aquaculture industry”
Oman has a great potential to provide algae for synthesis of biofuel, observers in the field of biology have stated.The Sultanate, with its wadis and seas, is an excellent source of algae that can be cultivated for lipids or fats from which biofuel can then be derived.
There have been few studies on the macroalgae of Oman, e.g. the survey mainly for commercial potential of seaweeds by Mardela Int. (1975) listed around 30 taxa identified mostly to generic level. A list of seaweed taxa is given in Barratt et al., (1984). The study showed the brown algae as abundant around Masirah . Further studies are needed to show the trends of the Macroalgae. More recently, a study on the Delesseriaceae (Rhodophyta) of the Arabian Sea was undertaken. Representatives of this family are relatively well documented for adjacent areas in the Indian Ocean and these taxa are consequently a good tool for biogeographical analyses. The morphology, anatomy and reproductive characteristics of ten species are being studied; including taxa with disjunct distribution patterns (e.g. Zellera sp.) and first records since their original description (e.g. Chauviniella jadinii). Other algal groups that require a thorough examination are the Chlorophyta, the Nemaliales and the Rhodymeniales. The record of a true Kelp species Ecklonia eadiata that is found at depth between 6 and 12 meters in a tropical region is of great biodiversity interest as it is otherwise reported only from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The presence of this exceptional record of a temperate species has not recently been confirmed since despite attempts (most recently in 2009) to find it. It is possible that the species is confined to a much localized site east of Sadh, Dhofar; further efforts should be made to confirm its presence. Apparently, the sea currents play a big role in the redistribution of algal species.
Distribution, abundance, and biomass data for seagrass communities at several locations on the coast of Oman were studied. The main study site was on the western side of Masirah Island on the Arabian Sea coast of Oman. This area is an important feeding ground for the green turtle, Chelonia mydas L., and it is affected by upwelling of low temperature waters during the summer monsoon. The depth distributions of Halodule uninervis and Halophila ovalis , the two most abundant seagrasses at this site, overlapped but were inversely related. Halodule dominated the intertidal zone and Halophila was more predominant in the deep subtidal, although total biomass of the two sea grasses were similar in this depth zone. At all depths, biomass of Halophila was about equally distributed between leaves and roots and rhizomes. Leaf biomass of Halodule was only 7–20% of the total biomass and the highest below-ground biomass occurred in the intertidal zone. Biomass of these species here and at other sites and of Thalassodendron ciliatum (Forssk.) den Hartog at this site was generally lower than comparative data in the Gulf and the Red Sea. Small patches of Syringodium isoetifolium (Aschers.) Dandy was 39 also observed in Umm Ar Rasas Bight making a total of four species recorded to occur in Oman. The reduced growth of sea grasses at Masirah Island seems to be due to stresses associated with the summer monsoon and grazing pressure. Survival of these populations is discussed in terms of seasonal growth and flowering. The Gonu Cyclone which caused extensive damage in 2007 along the Sea of Oman was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit the Arabian Peninsula. The dense beds of the smaller sea grasses Halodule uninervis and Halophila ovalis in the shallow intertidal at Ra’s Sawadi apparently were destroyed by this cyclone
Oman algae farm project
Oman hopes to make a landmark foray into the multibillion dollar global algae farming industry with a maiden investment in a mega project on the South Al Sharqiya coast with key backing from a leading British player.
UK-based SuSeWi (formerly Feed Algae), which is behind a number of algae farming projects around the world, is leading the development of a 100,000-tons per annum capacity farm in the Sultanate. With an estimated investment of around $430 million, it will rank among the largest micro algae farming projects in the world.
Given the scope of the venture and the need for approvals from a plethora of regulatory agencies, the Implementation Support and Follow-Up Unit (ISFU) – a special task force set up under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court – has been facilitating the approvals process to aid its speedy delivery. ISFU’s mandate is to fast-track projects and initiatives that will help accelerate Oman’s economic diversification.
Significantly, the proposed venture will help Oman break into an industry that will be worth an estimated $45 billion in 2023, according to ISFU. The Sultanate’s unique natural environment and climate settings are ideal for algae farming, it noted in its newly published 2019 Annual Report.
A preliminary aquaculture license for the project has already been obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, says ISFU, which is also coordinating with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Housing (MoH) and Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) in securing the requisite permits for the ambitious project. A consultant has been appointed to undertake an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study before implementation can commence in earnest. (Oman Observer , 2020)