Susan Hoenig
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Diatoms and Fungi
Diatoms and Fungi

Diatoms are microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life. They are responsible for about as much oxygen as all of the land plants on Earth. Diatoms are a type of Phytoplankton forming brilliant swirls of turquoise in the North Sea. This is caused by sunlight reflecting off of chlorophyll in the phytoplankton, which (like terrestrial plants) use the process of photosynthesis to create carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. The brightness of the color indicates that the plants are coated with calcium carbonate making the water appear a bright blue in satellite imagery.

Fungi have an important role as decomposers in nature. The body of a fungus consists of a mass of threadlike tubes. Many fungi and plant roots interact. The fungi help provide water and nutrients to these plants in exchange for carbohydrates that plants produce. Fungi have the potential to remove pollutants from the soil environment, such as petroleum, pesticides and other contaminants. The intricate, white filaments growing in the soil, underground weavings of ‘root’ systems for fungi are mycelium. The mycelium draws up minerals that are essential to both the fungi and fungi’s symbiotic partners and can prevent washouts, holding new soil in place until woody plants can be established.