Atlas, Ronald M. Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
Last reviewed:April 2020
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- Population interactions
- Biogeochemical cycling
- Biodegradation of environmental pollutants
- Biodegradation of wastes
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The study of interrelationships between microorganisms and their environments. Microbial ecology is a scientific discipline concerned with how microorganisms (microbes) interact with each other and the environment. Microbial populations are able to tolerate varying environmental conditions. Some microorganisms, referred to as extremophiles, grow only under conditions usually considered hostile to life, including hot springs (Fig. 1), salt lakes, and deep-sea thermal vents. Understanding the environmental factors that control microbial growth and survival offers insight into the distribution of microorganisms in nature, and many studies in microbial ecology examine the adaptive features that permit particular microbial species to function in particular habitats. See also: Ecology; Environment; Extremophiles; Hydrothermal vent; Microbiology; Spring (hydrology); Thermal ecology
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