Biological organisation is the hierarchy of complex biological structures and systems that define life using a reductionistic approach. The traditional hierarchy, as detailed below, extends from atoms to biospheres. The higher levels of this scheme are often referred to as an ecological organisation concept, or as the field, hierarchical ecology.
Each level in the hierarchy represents an increase in organisational complexity, with each "object" being primarily composed of the previous level's basic unit. The basic principle behind the organisation is the concept of emergence—the properties and functions found at a hierarchical level are not present and irrelevant at the lower levels.
The biological organisation of life is a fundamental premise for numerous areas of scientific research, particularly in the medical sciences. Without this necessary degree of organisation, it would be much more difficult—and likely impossible—to apply the study of the effects of various physical and chemical phenomena to diseases and physiology (body function). For example, fields such as cognitive and behavioral neuroscience could not exist if the brain was not composed of specific types of cells, and the basic concepts of pharmacology could not exist if it was not known that a change at the cellular level can affect an entire organism. These applications extend into the ecological levels as well. For example, DDT's direct insecticidal effect occurs at the subcellular level, but affects higher levels up to and including multiple ecosystems. Theoretically, a change in one atom could change the entire biosphere.