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.
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.