Ecology is the scientific discipline focused on the study of ecological systems and the living and non-living processes that support them.
Microbial ecology is a sub-discipline of ecology focused on microorganisms (that is, such microbes as bacteria, viruses, some algae and protozoa, and prions), their life cycles, niches and habitats. Due to the substantial numbers of microorganisms on Earth, these small organisms exercise mind-boggling influences, effects and impacts on other organisms (including humankind) and on the ecological systems they inhabit
Microbial ecology is central to our understanding of human, plant and animal disease and well-being as well as the condition and functioning of all ecological systems.
This is Section 10.2.1 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Lead Author: Michael B. Usher; Contributing Authors:Terry V. Callaghan, Grant Gilchrist, Bill Heal, Glenn P....
Water pollutionLast Updated on 2014-11-17 12:18:45Water pollution is the contamination of natural water bodies by chemical, physical, radioactive or pathogenic microbial substances. Adverse alteration of water quality presently produces large scale illness and deaths, accounting for approximately 50 million deaths per year worldwide, most of these deaths occurring in Africa and Asia. In China, for example, about 75 percent of the population (or 1.1 billion people) are without access to unpolluted drinking water, according to China's own standards. Widespread consequences of water pollution upon ecosystems include species mortality, biodiversity reduction and loss of ecosystem services. Some consider that water pollution may occur from natural causes such as sedimentation from severe rainfall events; however, natural causes, including volcanic eruptions and algae blooms from natural causes constitute a minute amount of the... More »
Gut reaction: environmental effects on the human microbiotaLast Updated on 2014-10-13 22:34:38This article, written by Melissa Lee Phillips, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.
Living with each of us—on our skin, in our mucosa, and in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract—are microorganisms whose numbers dwarf the number of our own cells and genes. Although some of these microbes are pathogens, most are harmless or even beneficial. The body’s assortment of microorganisms, collectively called the microbiota, is similar to an organ in that it performs functions essential for our survival. Some microbes produce... More »
BacteriaLast Updated on 2014-10-12 18:54:28
Bacteria are any of a very large group of single-celled microorganisms that display a wide range of metabolic types, geometric shapes and environmental habitats—and niches—of occurrence. Normally only several micrometers in length, bacteria assume the form of spheres, rods, spirals and other shapes. Bacteria are found in a very broad gamut of habitats; for example, bacterial extremophiles that thrive in such places as hot springs, arctic environments, radioactive waste, deep sea oil seeps, deep Earth crustal environments, hypersaline ponds and within other living organisms. There are approximately 50 million bacterial organisms in a single gram of typical surface soil. The worldwide bacterial biomass exceeds that of all plants and animals on Earth. However, the majority of bacteria have not yet been characterised,
Bacteria are members of the prokaryote... More »
FungiLast Updated on 2014-10-12 17:18:45The word fungus usually invokes images of mushrooms and toadstools. Although mushrooms are fungi, the forms which a fungus may take are varied. There are over 100,000 species of described fungi and probably over 200,000 undescribed.
Most fungi are terrestrial, but they can be found in every habitat worldwide, including marine (500 spp.) and freshwater environments. Fungi are nonmotile, filamentous eukaryotes that lack plastids and photosynthetic pigments. The majority of fungi are saprophytes; they obtain nutrients from dead organic matter. Other fungi survive as parasitic decomposers, absorbing their food, in solution, through their cell walls.
Most fungi live on the substrate upon which they feed. Numerous hyphae penetrate the wood, cheese, soil, or flesh in which they are growing. The hyphae secrete digestive enzymes that break down the substrate, enabling the fungus to absorb the... More »
Ecosystem services fact sheetLast Updated on 2014-07-09 17:01:53
This ecosystems services fact sheet is intended to provide an overview of the subject of ecosystem services, e.g. the economic consequences to humankind of benefits provided by the natural environment. This fact sheet was originally developed by the Ecological Society of America (ESA).
Have you ever considered that the cereal you eat is brought to you each morning by the wind, or that the glass of clear, cold, clean water drawn from you faucet may have been purified for you by a wetland or perhaps the root system of an entire forest? Trees in your front yard work to trap dust, dirt, and harmful gases from the air you breathe. The bright fire of oak logs you light to keep warm on cold nights and the medicine you take to ease the pain of an ailment come to you from Nature’s warehouse of services. Natural ecosystems perform fundamental life-support services upon which human... More »
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