Macroalgae occur in the marine benthos from the upper intertidal to depths of more than 200 m, contributing up to 1 Pg C per year to global primary productivity. Freshwater macroalgae are mainly green (Chlorophyta) with some red (Rhodophyta) and a small contribution of brown (Phaeophyceae) algae, while in the ocean all three higher taxa are important. Attempts to relate the depth distribution of three higher taxa of marine macroalgae to their photosynthetic light use through their pigmentation in relation to variations in spectral quality of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) with depth (complementary chromatic adaptation) and optical thickness (package effect) have been relatively unsuccessful. The presence (Chlorophyta, Phaeophyceae) or absence (Rhodophyta) of a xanthophyll cycle is also not well correlated with depth distribution of marine algae. The relative absence of freshwater brown algae does not seem to be related to their photosynthetic light use. Photosynthetic inorganic carbon acquisition in some red and a few green macroalgae involves entry of CO by diffusion. Other red and green macroalgae, and brown macroalgae, have CO concentrating mechanisms; these frequently involve acid and alkaline zones on the surface of the alga with CO (produced from HCO ) entering in the acid zones, while some macroalgae have CCMs based on active influx of HCO . These various mechanisms of carbon acquisition have different responses to the thickness of the diffusion boundary layer, which is determined by macroalgal morphology and water velocity. Energetic predictions that macroalgae growing at or near the lower limit of PAR for growth should rely on diffusive CO entry without acid and alkaline zones, and on NH rather than NO as nitrogen source, are only partially borne out by observation. The impact of global environmental change on marine macroalgae mainly relates to ocean acidification and warming with shoaling of the thermocline and decreased nutrient flux to the upper mixed layer. Predictions of the impact on macroalgae requires further experiments on interactions among increased inorganic carbon, increased temperature and decreased nitrogen and phosphorus supply, and, when possible, studies of genetic adaptation to environmental change.