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Title: Insect Biodiversity
Author(s): Robert G Foottit and Peter H Adler (eds)
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Pages:xxi + 632 ISBN: 978 1 4051 5142 9
Price: Format:Hardcover
Target Readership Educator







Content: 1 – Introduction; 2 - The importance of insects; 3 - Insect diversity in the nearctic region; 4- Amazonian rainforests and their richness of Coleoptera; 5- Insect biodiversity in the Afrotropical region; 6 - Biodiversity of Australiasian insects; 7 - Insect biodiversity in the Palearctic region; 8-8 Biodiversity of aquatic insects; 9 - Biodiversity of Diptera; 10 Biodiversity of Heteroptera; 11 - Biodiversity of Coleoptera; 12 - Biodiversity of Hymenoptera; 13 - Biodiversity of Lepidoptera; 14 - The science of insect taxonomy; 15 - Insect species - concept and practice; 16 - Molecular dimensions of insect taxonomy; 17 - DNA barcodes and insect biodiversity; 18 - Insect biodiversity informatics; 19 - Parasitoid biodiversity and insect pest management; 20 - The taxonomy of crop pests; 21 - Adventive (non-native) insects: importance to science and society; 22 - Biodiversity of biting flies: implications for humanity; 23 - Reconciling ethical and scientific issues for insect conservation; 24 - Taxonomy and management of insect biodiversity; 25 - Insect biodiversity - millions and millions.

Review: Insects are our most diverse group of animals. This wealth of biodiversity needs taxonomists to provide the identification upon which study depends. According to the preface in this text there is an inverse relationship- increasing biodiversity and decreasing taxonomists. Such a situation is clearly not tenable for the former requires more of the latter! To demonstrate how far we have come and what we still have to do this text highlights the key issues.

It starts with two chapters outlining the book and highlighting the importance of insects in terms of their ecological role, their use in wider science and interaction with people. From this point the text is divided into three parts. The first part gathers contributors who describe insect biodiversity from a regional/geographic perspective. The selection of examples and the aspects discussed in each chapter reinforce the editors earlier comments of the problems of complete coverage. Two near-Arctic regions are detailed along with tropical rainforest and Africa and a lone chapter on Australasia. Topics do vary within each chapter but most often cover issues about biodiversity variations, taxonomy issues, human impacts and conservation. Part two takes a similar view but from the perspective of the taxon with examples ranging from aquatic taxa to lepidoptera. Here the treatment is far more even with overviews of the key taxa and discussions on human impact and conservation. Part three covers the largest number of contributions and issues. Sub-titled tools and approaches it deals with a range of taxonomic issues. Chapter 14 opens this section with a discussion on some of the more pressing issues in taxonomy. It's not just about changes in classification but far more about the need for taxonomists set against an array of new computational methods that could transform the subject. As if these issues were not enough, chapter 15 goes further to question the whole idea od species and where to draw the line arguing that there is more than one answer to this. The following two chapters add to the debate by looking at some of the new methods available such as molecular ecology and DNA studies. All this information needs to be organised which is where the next contribution, dealing with informatics, has its say. The next avenue to be explored is the issue of pest and pest control. This is controversial not just because of the cost of controlling species but the methods used. Biological control might seem ideal but it can (and in Australia, has) get out of control. On another tack, parasites that control pests may not travel when the insect species invades another place. Also parasites have their own biodiversity which needs to be protected. Finally in this set there's a look at biting flies. It's too simple to just remove them because some are harmless or even useful and anyway, as we see here, we can learn a lot about species control by more careful study. What we have in these four chapters is a very complex view about insect pests - far from the simple idea of just removing them. If anything, after studying these chapters, the reader will come away with a sense of the multi-facetted nature of insect ecology and the value of more research. The final three chapters all focus on biodiversity and conservation arguing about insect values, uses, biodiversity management and the sheer size of the problem we need to address.

This is a highly specialised and complex book dealing with a specific group of animals. It is also a very interesting exploration of the issues surrounding the seemingly simple notion of biodiversity. Although obviously aimed at the expert, it can also be used by those studying other organismal groups. The wealth of ideas could also spread to broader educational settings like senior school work and field centres. It's one of those texts which needs a wider readership than might be envisaged because its message, although difficult to penetrate at times, is one with universal application.





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