Publisher: Oxford University Press Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 19 852503 6
Pages: xi + 242 Format: Paperback

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1 - The soil environment; 2 - The diversity of life in soil; 3 - Organism interactions and soil processes; 4 - Linkages between plant and soil biological communities; 5 - Above-ground trophic interactions and soil biological communities; 6 - Soil biological properties and global change; 7 - Conclusions.



The ecological value of soil should be well known by now. However, an increasing awareness of the links between above- and below- ground ecologies and their links to, for example, global climate change is only just beginning to attract mainstream attention. As part of the 'Biology of Habitats' series, this book aims to increase attention.

It's clear from the very beginning that this is not a traditional soil text which focusses far more on the physical properties. Having said that, the very first chapter covers precisely that area! We start with soil formation and the divisions in soil horizons, through to pedogenesis and what in older texts would be the Jenny equation i.e. the soil forming factors. The second chapter starts our look at the biological side echoing the books subtitle of 'a community and ecosystem approach'. There's an overview of the range of organisms found and the basic trophic positions and functions. There's also a very useful overview of soil biodiversity at a number of scales - global, regional and local - and also temporally. Chapter three focusses on organisms function and in particular, their role in nutrient mobilisation. There are good overviews of nitrogen and phosphorous pathways, microbial consumption and the impact above-ground organisms have on the soil ecology. Chapter four makes this above/below link explicit with a study of plants and the soil linkages. Plants take up nutrients and supply organic matter but they can also alter the soil in other ways e.g. through polyphenol action. Plant diversity can also play a major role in soil development as well as biology and ecosystem functioning. So far, we've only been considering the lone plant or small community in isolation. As chapter five reminds us the real situation is more complex because above-ground ecosystems also have trophic interactions which can drive change. Herbivores can have a large impact not only in removing vegetation but also in the waste they leave. In effect it adds another dimension to our work because these impacts are dynamic depending not only on the herbivore but the ecosystem it's eating and the soil properties where it's growing. Chapter six delves into the newer world of global change and soil functions. Carbon sequestration is a key element in mediating atmospheric change but that also requires an understanding of the soil properties. We are seeing that soil is not like a sponge more like a series of cascades where entry is highly variable. Recent literature suggests that the final picture may be even more complex than that stated here. A final summarising chapter notes the key points.

This is a very good introductory text for the beginning student. It is clearly written and well illustrated. It covers key topics and the introduction of soil-atmosphere interactions will help to guide the reader in this area. Unlike some introductory texts it doesn't try to cover everything but prefers to keep to a basic level but make the coverage comprehensive. An extensive bibliography should provide any additional references needed. Overall, an excellent addition to this well-respected series.


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