Biosphere Engineering

Sentient life is often fragile, requiring specific temperatures, gasseous and liquid element concentrations, acceleration levels, atmospheric pressures, etc. Not to mention a wide range of carefully balanced nutrients. While it is possible to provide these by means of pure machinery, it is cheaper and more reliable to simply copy the machinery pre-designed for this task by nature: the ecology the sentient life evolved alongside with. Biosphere Engineering covers the creation and management of biospheres in locations they did not naturally evolve in, be it a world halfway through terraforming, a habitat or a large starship.

There are many difficulties in building up a system as highly interdependant as a biosphere from, effectively, scratch. Simply seeding plant life on a world with suitable temperature, gravity and atmosphere is not enough. Even if the soil is not solid rock or composed of materials toxic to plant life, many plants will not function without certain species of insect or microscopic life living in the soil, however, many of those cannot live without their own source of food, etc.

With this in mind, the first step in biosphere engineering is typically a microscopic one. In the event that the terrain and/or atmosphere of the planet is toxic, or perhaps inorganic, specially engineered extremophilic bacteria and nanites can be released to convert these materials into usable, organic substrates. With a, at least mildly, non-toxic, organic environment laid down, more typical micro-organisms can be released onto the planet's surface. With this relatively stable foundation laid down, macro-organisms like plants and animals can be gradually introduced.

There have, however, been many disasters involving the introduction of Terran organisms into non-terran biospheres (and vice versa). In these situations, certain life forms may respond unpredictably well to a specific environment, so much so that they can out-compete and potentially wipe out indigenous wildlife.