Topics in microbial ecology
|Evolution and Creation||Biodiversity||Exobiology||Ecology|
Many years of evolution have created a stunning diversity of microbes. Understanding the richness of this awesome and mind-expanding microbial world puts our lives into perspective and gives us new respect for other beings.
The huge numbers of microbial species are only beginning to be known. Of the more than one million species of bacteria suspected to exist, only about 4200 species of bacteria are described. The infant science of microbial systematics has only recently acquired the sophisticated tools required to assess this tremendous biodiversity. It is estimated that we know less than 1% of the microbial species on Earth.
To learn more about microbial biodiversity, check out the biodiversity page.
Environmental degradation is one of the worst threats facing humanity. Many enviornmetal problems may be cured by microbes.
Bioremediation of toxic wastes: bioremediation, or the use of microbes to clean-up toxic wastes. Microbes are used to clean up the following:
Microorganisms recyle most organic wastes in nature into reusable resources. Humans have harnessed the power of microbes to recycle in the systems below:
All of us depend upon food crops for sustenance, and in turn these crops depend on healthy soils with its balanced microbial life. Much of the protein that we eat is the result of bacterial fixation of nitrogen from the air from microbes such as Rhizobium. Many of our foods are prepared with the aid of microbes, such as yeast in bread, and lactobacilli in yogurt.
Many of our food supplements, from vitamins, amino acids to flavor enhancers and preservatives, come from microbes.
Some of our foods are microbes, such as salted yeast paste found in Vegemite, and single cell protein.
Although not a food, microbes are used as probiotics, a digestion supplement that colonizes the intestines, preventing the colonization of bad, disease-causing microbes.
Microbes are used as workhorses in the production of many compounds, from fuel, to pharmaceuticals, to chemicals. They are also used in mining, insect and disease control, genetic engineering and some are even used to make computer biochips.
Fuel Production - ethanol production for automobile fuel.Mining - leaching of metals from ore-bearing rocks by microbes.
- 5% of world's copper ore is produced by bio-leaching
- Uranium is mined with help of bacteria
Biocontrol - Using microbes to combat pests is called biocontrol. One of the most popular forms of biocontrol is the use of Bacillus thuriengensis, a bacterium that produces a toxin that kills over 40 problem pests such as the gypsy moth.Computer Biochips - Microorganisms may some day be used to produce protein-based microprocessors with more switches than conventional microchips.Genetic Engineering - Some microorganisms are used to carry genes into other organisms.