Microbes are amazing! Too small to see with the naked eye, they are nature’s life forms observed through a microscope.
Throughout human history, we never knew that microbes (short for microorganisms) existed until quite recently.
There’s microscopic animals, plants, fungi, viruses, protists, archaea and unfathomable amounts of bacteria species. Their only signs were through fermentation, decomposition, illness or damage.
We tend to call them germs or bugs. But learning about them changes both our view of nature and our sense of how we survive with them.
These minuscule creatures invented life, so as a result they exist with every living thing. They are the natural essence of life in soil, water, plants, animals including us, even in rain and more!
They began and evolved life on Earth and are still evolving.
Everything alive has a microbiome or multiple microbiomes (a biome is a group of organisms living in a similar place such as a tropical rainforest, arctic tundra, Okanagan Valley, etc. and in each of us). All life is connected by microorganisms.
And microbes link the living/biotic organisms and nonliving/abiotic parts of biomes.
How much do you know about the essential, integral and amazing organisms that rule life on Earth? And I don’t mean humans! It’s the innumerable minute things that really count.
We’re a walking community of microbes as are all other animals.
Plants, soil, water and air have microbe communities too. There are exceedingly more microbiotic organisms than all other life species on Earth.
Couples, families and even communities share their microbes from shed skin cells, hair, breath, coughs, sneezes and even farts. This is our aura composed of millions of microscopic particles.
And we are connected to everything by microbial life. They are in and all around us. We hardly perceive the connections, yet we depend on them constantly.
Mitochondria archaea – the remnants of ancient bacteria inside our cells – coverts the oxygen we breathe into energy. We exhale CO2 – the byproduct of burning that oxygen. Plants take in CO2 and through photosynthesis exhale oxygen.
What an amazing cycle of life on Earth! Other microbes inside us break down and deliver nutrients, provide defences against pathogenic microbes, boost our immune system and clean us out.
Seventy per cent of Earth’s surface is water and 15 per cent is barren land. The remaining 10 per cent is soil that sustains plants and land animals.
Soil is alive with microbes. It’s composed of living and dying organisms especially microbes – that’s the smell of soil.
Without microbes, soil is sand, clay, silt or rock. Soil is loaded with microbes! One handful of soil contains 50-100 times more microorganisms than people on Earth. And it’s a complex food web decomposing material from the surface and in ground and feeding each other.
Guess what happens when we use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.–the nemesis of conventional industrial farming vs. organic farming.
We need to be careful not to disrupt the macrobiotic partnerships.
Panda or Polar Bear extinction may not destroy us, but loss of a foundational microbe in the soil could ruin our lives.
The water cycle moves microscopic bits of pollution through warer, air and soil. But we rely on clean air and water for our health, so we must understand the connections between what we do and how it affects our environment including all the microorganisms we can’t see.
My favourite microbe books are: Microbia by Eugenia Bone and Gut Garden by Katie Brosnan. Our library has both.
Greek lesson: Micro means small, bio means life.
Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook.