1 December 2023

Have you ever wondered what the world of microorganisms around us is like and what it really encompasses? Well, the microflora and microfauna refer to the community of microorganisms that inhabit a certain environment, be it in the soil, water, air or in our body.

These microorganisms are too small to see with the naked eye, but they have a great impact on our environment and our health. In this article we will discover more about how they are classified and why they are so important.

Meaning of microflora and microfauna

Are the microscopic organisms that live in a particular ecosystem, such as soil, water, human skin, intestinal tract, among others.

The definition of microflora refers specifically to the bacteria that inhabit a certain environment. Are can be beneficial, such as those that aid in digestion and protect the skin against infection, or can be harmful, such as those that cause disease. In Spanish, the word ‘microbiota’ is also used to refer to these.

On the other hand, the concept of microfauna refers to the little animals, such as mites, nematodes and earthworms, that inhabit a particular environment. These organisms may play an important role in the ecological balance and on the health of the ecosystem in which they live.

Both microflora and microfauna are important for the proper functioning of ecosystemsThis is thanks to the maintenance of the health and well-being of a variety of organisms, whether they are humans or other animals.

What is microfauna used for?

Play an important role in ecosystems, since they are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter and the regulation of nutrient cycling. It is made up of organisms that are very small and not visible to the naked eye, such as bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, mites, and other small invertebrates.

Bacteria and microscopic fungi are primarily responsible for the decomposition of organic matter in terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, since they release important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon, which are essential for the growth of plants or other organisms.

Protozoa and nematodes are also important in ecosystems, as they can control population density of bacteria and other microorganisms by feeding on them. In addition, some mites and microscopic invertebrates may play an important role in pollination and food production.

What are the characteristics of the microfauna and microflora?

Here are some characteristics of the microfauna and microflora:

  1. Small size: Both are microscopic organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Most of the time a microscope is required to observe them.
  2. Great diversity: There is a great diversity of microorganisms that make it up. For example, the microflora includes bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa, while the microfauna includes rotifers, nematodes, tardigrades and mites.
  3. ecological importance: They have an important role in maintaining ecosystems. For example, the microflora plays a vital role in the decomposition of organic matter, nitrogen fixation, and the synthesis of vitamins. Microfauna, on the other hand, can control the population from other microorganisms and also participate in the decomposition of organic matter.
  4. Adaptability: The microorganisms that compose them are highly adaptable and can survive in a wide variety of environments, from extreme conditions such as high temperatures or low, high or low salinity, to very acid or alkaline conditions.
  5. Complex interactions: Both interact in a complex way and have been established symbiotic relationships. For example, bacteria in the gut aid in the digestion of food in animals and nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots of plants provide nitrogen that the plant needs to grow.

What is the size of the microflora and microfauna?

The size varies significantly, as it includes a wide variety of unicellular and multicellular organismsfrom bacteria and microscopic fungi to small animals such as mites and nematodes.

In general, most microorganisms range in size from 0.1 and 10 micrometers (µm). For example, bacteria are typically around 1 µm in diameter, while fungi can range from 2 to 10µm. Protozoa, which are larger single-celled organisms, can reach sizes of up to 100µm.

In the case of microscopic animals, such as mites and nematodes, their size varies greatly depending on the species. Mites can measure from 0.1 to several millimeters in lengthwhile nematodes can vary from 0.1 to several centimeters.

How are microflora and microfauna classified?

Both can be classified in various ways, but one of the most used is according to the type of organism and the environment in which they live. Below are some of the most common classifications:

Depending on the type of organism:

  • microflora: Refers to the set of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that inhabit a certain environment, for example, in the soil, water or the digestive tract of animals.
  • microfauna: Refers to the set of microscopic organisms that are part of the soil faunasuch as protozoa, nematodes and mites.

According to the environment:

  • Land: It refers to microorganisms that inhabit the soil and vegetation.
  • Water: Refers to the microorganisms that inhabit the water bodiessuch as rivers, lakes and oceans.
  • Intestinal: Refers to microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract of animalss. Others are even found in the skin or in any other tissue. They can also inhabit the digestive system and other tissues of humans.

According to its ecological function:

  • beneficial: These are microorganisms that have a positive effect on the environment in which they live, such as bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil or protozoa that help decompose organic matter.
  • harmful: Involves microorganisms that can cause disease or damage in the environment in which they live, such as bacteria that cause infections or mite infestations that affect crops.

For example, some organizations can be decomposersothers may be symbionts, and still others may be predators.

According to your size:

It involves very small or microscopic organisms, but pointing out the differences in their size. Microflora refers to microscopic organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, while microfauna refers to slightly larger organisms such as protozoa, rotifers, and nematodes.

According to their phylogeny:

They can be classified according to their phylogenetic relationship. For example, organisms can be classified according to their domain (Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya) and kingdom (eg, Fungi, Animalia, Protista).

It is important to note that these classifications they are not exclusive and that an organism can be classified in different ways depending on the criteria that is being used.

What is the importance of microfauna and microflora in ecosystems?

Microfauna and microflora are key components in ecosystems because they perform various essential functions for the maintenance of life on Earth. Some of the most important functions they perform are described below:

  1. Nutrient cycling: They are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter in the soil, which allows the release of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon which are essential for plant growth. In addition, microbial activity helps maintain soil fertility and its ability to retain water.
  2. Pest control: They can act like natural predators of insects and other organisms that can harm plants and crops, reducing the need to use chemical pesticides.
  3. Food production: Many microorganisms are important for food production, either in the fermentation of foods such as bread and cheese, or in the production of foods such as yogurt and kefir.
  4. Sustainability: They are essential to maintain ecosystem balancesince they are responsible for the renewal and regeneration of both soils and natural resources.

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