Microbial Ecology, Biology tutorial

Microbial Ecology:

Microbial ecology is a study of microbes in environment and their interactions with each other. Microbes are the tiniest creatures on Earth, yet despite their small size, they have a vast impact on us and on our environment.

The study of microbial ecology can assists us develop our lives by means of the use of microbes in food production, environmental restoration, bioengineering of helpful products like antibiotics, food supplements, and chemicals. Study of these bizarre and dissimilar creatures that are everywhere yet nowhere to be seen is fascinating and pursuit which appeals to curiosity and liveliness in us.

Most kinds of microbes remain unknown. It is evaluated that less than 1% of the microbial species on Earth. Yet microbes surround us everywhere - soil, air, water. The average gram of soil has one billion (1,000,000,000) microbes representing possibly numerous thousand species.


The estimated 1,000,000 bacterial species exist on the planet, according to Global Biodiversity Assessment, yet fewer than 4500 have been described. Greatest genetic diversity of life comes from inside world of microorganisms, yet the least is known about them.

Diverse Habitats:

Microbes inhabit the widest range of habitats from sub-freezing temperatures, to water hotter than boiling, from the rocks beneath our feet, to the atmosphere miles overhead, to the stuff between our toes, to the tops of mountains and to the deepest ocean trenches.

Microbe Hunting:

Hunting for new microbes is not as easy as taking the jeep trip in the outback with the pair of binoculars. By definition, microbes are invisible without the help of the microscope, so the challenge to find new ones is great. Difficulty is compounded when one does look under microscope to see two apparently similar bacteria that later prove to be not at all similar. For instance: two bacteria may have same rod shape, but one thrives in presence of oxygen while the other one is killed by oxygen. As microbes are so hard to see, they are the last organisms to be catalogued with fewer than one percent yet explained.

Microbial Biodiversity Working Group:

Greatest diversity of life comes from inside world of microorganisms. To help sort out and recognize this tremendous biodiversity, Microbial Biodiversity Working Group was started. Goals of working groups are usually to appraise advances, opportunities and needs of field, consider society activities like workshops, summary publications or new articles which highlight microbial biodiversity, and give advice to national and international groups on biodiversity.

Microbial ecology and environmental sustainability:

Microbial ecology drives several processes necessary for ecosystem function, production, and sustainability, comprising the cycling of energy and nutrients through ecosystem, methane degradation, and giving resistance and degradation mechanisms for toxins. Environmental sustainability depends on proficient functioning of all such processes.

Energy Cycling:

Energy is needed to drive ecosystem procedures, comprising the development and maintenance of active biological communities, cycling of nutrients, and processing of toxins.  Greatest source of energy input in terrestrial ecosystems is derived from plants in form, of cellulose, hemi-cellulose, pectins and lignins.  Micro-organisms degrade the complex organic compounds and release energy that drives further ecosystem processes. Carbon and energy can be further cycled inside microbial community through degradation of microbial organic matter, mainly carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and chitins.  Productivity and function of the environment is thus linked to effectiveness with which micro-organisms cycle energy through ecosystem.

Methane degradation:

Biodegradation of organic matter inside anaerobic soil environments leads to release of methane (CH4), the powerful greenhouse gas which is over 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (CO2).  Methanotrophic microbes inside aerobic niches in soil have potential to oxidise methane to less potent CO2 using methane or methanol oxidation pathways.

Toxin Processing:

Toxic chemicals can harshly disturb ecosystem processes, causing repression or elimination of main functional species, and suppression of main ecological processes.  Usually occurring toxins comprise heavy metals and complex hydrocarbons.  While presence of toxins in natural environment can arise as the result of natural processes, many occur as the product of anthropogenic contamination.  Microbial communities present potential to mitigate effects of such compounds either by degrading toxin to benign products, as in case of organic toxins, or by giving molecular based resistance to heavy metal contaminants which permit broader ecosystem processes to be conserved or restored.

Microbial Activity And Environmental Management:

Effective and sustainable management of ecosystems thus depends on effective management of main microbial processes which drive ecosystem function.  Though, conventional microbial methods, like assessments of microbial biomass, have been not capable to give depth of information needed for analysis and explanation of microbial ecosystem activity and function.

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