Home | News | Websites
Title: Ecology
Author(s): Michael L Cain, William D Bowman and Sally D Hacker.
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: Sinauer
Pages:xv + 655 ISBN: 978 0 87893 083 8
Price: Format:Hardback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 –Introduction - web of life; 2 - The physical environment; 3 - The biosphere; 4 - Coping with environmental variation - temperature and water; 5 - Coping with environmental variation - energy; 6- Evolution and ecology; 7 - Life history analyses; 8 - Population distribution and abundance; 9 - Population growth and regulation; 10 - Population dynamics; 11 - Competition; 12 - Predation and herbivory; 13 - Parasitism; 14 - Mutualism and commensalism; 15 - The nature of communities; 16 - Change in communities; 17 - Biogeography; 18 - Species diversity in communities; 19 - Production; 20 - Energy flows and food webs; 21 - Nutrient supply and cycling; 22 - Conservation biology; 23 - Landscape ecology and ecosystem management; 24 - Global ecology.

Review: The variety of texts in introductory ecology is considerable. Although many focus on the basic concepts are are those that take another tack and attempt to put the learner first - where ecological ideas are not the primary focus and where the goal is to encourage deeper study. This book falls into this category. From its first pages it is obvious that the goal is to show the "beauty and importance of ecology" (p viii) and that much of the book is devoted to this.

We start with a problem - that of amphibian decline and see how ecology can be used to explain and test what is happening. The remainder of the chapter focusses on the types of questions ecology can answer (and why those answers are sometimes contradictory. From here, the text is divided into six. Part one looks at the environment. Essentially this is the abiotic component of ecosystems. Chapter two starts with an overview of global energy variation and its resulting climatic impact. Chapter three returns to a biological theme but in terms of global vegetation patterns although it's largely as a function of response to the usual temperature/precipitation gradients. Chapter four and five are paired in their exploration of how organisms respond to environmental variations. The former looks at changes in heat and water whilst the latter focusses on energy. The unusual element here is that variations are taken on a wider canvas than normal with discussions down to cellular level as well as up to ecosystems. A brief review of evolution in response to these variations completes the part. Part two examines populations. Again, the broader view is taken with chapter 7 looking at life strategies but from a developmental as well as ecological perspective. Having gained some insight into species growth and survival, the remaining three chapters look at three key population areas- distribution, regulation and the dynamics balancing the two. Although chapter 10's focus is on dynamics it's not until part three that population interactions are taken further. Here, we have the usual range of topics starting with general ideas of competition and then refining then through predation/herbivory, parasites and mutualism/commensalism. As with the other chapters, there's a very wide range of cases both spatially and organismally going from the classic snowshoe hare to human parasites. Part 4 moves on the communities and their structure. Chapter 15 outlines the basic components of communities. Chapter 16 focusses on change starting with the Mount St Helens eruption as a model of change and then moving on to succession. Community change produces patterns which are then, as we see in chapter 17, part of biogeography - the mapping of these distributions. Finally there's a discussion on the nature of biodiversity. Part 5 moves up from community to ecosystems. Primary production starts the unit which continues by studying food webs and energy flow and finishes with biogeochemical cycles. Part six applies the principles in the book to the study of current global issues - conservation, landscape management and global systems.

This is a very interesting text. The production quality is amongst the highest to be seen. Full-colour illustrations abound. Examples are global and scales range from micro to macro. There is a very obvious effort to work extremely hard on the pedagogical features of the text. Chapter start with interesting case studies continue with text boxes, key word highlighting and finish with summaries, review questions web links and suggested readings. A website promises more interactive material with online quizzes, summaries, problems, glossaries etc. It's a complete package for the beginner and those wanting to see where their ecology fits into the broader picture. As such it is probably one of the best information sets currently available and although some ecologists might question some of the inclusions/exclusions it's bright and thoughtful text should win it numerous converts. A definite buy for the library.





To top