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Processes in Microbial Ecology

by David L. Kirchmankirchman-cover-new

Oxford University Press

First Edition, March 2012

Order it from: OUP USA, OUP UK, or Amazon

368 pages; 200 illustrations; 9.7 x 7.4


This web site provides some basic information about Processes in Microbial Ecology with links to other pages with corrections to errors and other notes. Readers are encouraged to contact the author (kirchman@udel.edu) if other mistakes are discovered or to send suggestions for topics to be covered in a future edition. Alternatively, you can send comments and feedback anonymously via the publisher's website.

The figures used in the book are available on the OUP web site.


Microbial ecology is the study of interactions among microbes in natural environments and their roles in biogeochemical cycles, food web dynamics, and the evolution of life. Microbes are the most numerous organisms in the biosphere and mediate many critical reactions in elemental cycles and biogeochemical reactions. Because microbes are essential players in the carbon cycle and related processes, microbial ecology is a vital science for understanding the role of the biosphere in global warming and the response of natural ecosystems to climate change.  

This textbook discusses the major processes carried out by viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other protists - the microbes - in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems. It focuses on biogeochemical processes, starting with primary production and the initial fixation of carbon into cellular biomass, before exploring how that carbon is degraded in both oxygen-rich (oxic) and oxygen-deficient (anoxic) environments. These biogeochemical processes are affected by ecological interactions, including competition for limiting nutrients, viral lysis, and predation by various protists in soils and aquatic habitats. The book neatly connects processes occurring at the micron scale to events happening at the global scale, including the carbon cycle and its connection to climate change issues. A final chapter is devoted to symbiosis and other relationships between microbes and larger organisms. Microbes have huge impacts not only on biogeochemical cycles, but also on the ecology and evolution of more complex forms of life, including Homo sapiens.

This textbook is primarily aimed at advanced undergraduates and graduate students taking courses in microbial ecology and environmental microbiology. The book will also serve as a resource for researchers in related fields, including ecology, oceanography, limnology, geochemistry, soil science, and general microbiology.


Presents the basic principles of microbial ecology using examples from both aquatic (freshwater and marine) and terrestrial ecosystems.

Uniquely combines biogeochemistry (e.g. the carbon cycle) with basic ecology (e.g. predator-prey interactions and competition).

Focuses on biogeochemical processes, particularly their relevance to understanding issues in climate change.

Demonstrates the importance of processes occurring on the micron scale to events happening at a global scale.

Describes some of the latest technological breakthroughs, including ecological genomics, which have revolutionized the field of microbial ecology.

Table of ContentsPME2012-BackCoverImage1inch.jpg



Footnotes and more references

Kirchman's home page


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