If you have ever visited a lake, a pond, or even the ocean, then you know about algae – not only the big ones that wash up on the beach, but also the much smaller microalgae. Responsible for the green you see on the water, these tiny organisms are not only the foundation of the aquatic food web, but they also photosynthesize. That means they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere like plants. And we all know how important that is because of global warming!
Interestingly, some algae also produce nitrous oxide – another greenhouse gas. We wanted to find out which type of algae produces it and how they create it. We tested different types of algae in both light and dark environments, which made us realize that only green algae make nitrous oxide from nitric oxide, and they have different ways of doing it based on the amount of light available. We also linked the nitric oxide production to fertilizers, implying that there may be a way to reduce the amount of nitrous oxide produced by algae in the future.