A flock of Ibis visits a flooded rice field in California.
Years of ecological research have helped rice farmers adopt cropping strategies that simultaneously promote rice production and expand habitat for waterflow.
Interactions of Organisms and the Environment
From tiny viruses and bacteria, unrecognized for millennia, to blue whales weighing
200 tons, and fungi that spread for hundreds of hectares underground, the diversity
and extent of life on Earth is dazzling. In its life and reproduction, every organism
is shaped by, and in turn shapes, its environment. Ecological scientists study organism‐environment
interactions across ecosystems of all sizes, ranging from microbial communities
to the Earth as a whole.
Web of life: Scientists estimate that there are between five to
fifty million species of organisms on Earth, of which less than two million have
been officially named. Many organisms are small: including microbes that inhabit
almost every crevice of the Earth; tiny worms that help build soils; and insects
that spend their entire lives in tree tops. Alongside these small denizens coexist
larger, flashier species that have drawn human attention throughout the ages: multicellular
plants and fungi, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fellow mammals. These species,
as well as many smaller ones, are consumers that depend for sustenance on energetic
biochemical compounds generated from light energy by photosynthesizing producer
species, or from inorganic chemical reactions by chemosynthetic species.