This thematic Virtual Special Issue highlights a personal selection of 18 recent (2007–2009) contributions to Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. These papers provide a flavour of recent research that is concerned with furthering our understanding of the many ways in which the biosphere interacts with the physical and chemical processes of sediment transfer/transformation. Much of this research has focused on understanding the mechanics by which the biota can modulate sediment transport and the strength of earth surface materials, often with the aim of applying that knowledge to enhance bioremediation methods of erosion control. This work continues to be fundamentally important in enhancing our understanding of earth surface processes, but often treats the biosphere and physical world as uncoupled entities. This selection therefore also provides samples of work that point to an ongoing but significant disciplinary reappraisal in which it is the interactions between ecological and geomorphological realms that are of primary interest. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.