Home | News | Websites
Title: Ecological World View
Author(s): Charles J Krebs
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: CSIRO
Pages:xv + 574 ISBN: 978 0 643 09380 5
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 – An introduction to ecology; 2 - Geographic ecology; 3 - What limits geographical distribution?; 4 - Behavioural ecology - evolution in action; 5 - Population dynamics - abundance in space; 6 - Population dynamics - abundance in time; 7 - Negative species interactions - predation, herbivory and competition; 8 - Negative species interactions - infection and parasitism; 9 - Positive interaction between species - mutualism and commensalism; 10 - Population regulation and the balance of nature; 11 - Community dynamics - succession; 12 - Community dynamics - biodiversity; 13 - Community dynamics - food webs; 14 - Community dynamics - disturbance ecology; 15 - Ecosystem ecology - energy flows and production; 16 - Ecosystem ecology - nutrient recycling; 17 - Landscape ecology - intermingled ecosystems; 18 - Harvesting populations- how to fish sustainably; 19 - Pest control - why we cannot eliminate pests; 20 - Conservation biology - endangered species and ecosystems' 21 - Ecosystem health and human impacts.

Review: Having only recently reviewed a copy of Krebs' Ecology I be wondered what this version might do. Copying out the chapter headings almost gave the impression of deja vu with most being the same. The idea that this was 'Ecology lite' proved to be false once it was possible to get into the text in detail. What we have here is a text which uses ecological principles to re-direct people's thought away from the usual economic analysis of the world. Its basic premise is that we need to re-organise the way we think and act because it is becoming increasingly obvious that business-as-usual isn't working.

We start with an introduction to the subject along with its development. This is fairly standard material but soon it becomes obvious that there is a twist in this. Rather than outline the subject it starts to comment on the scientific method and the way ecologists work. That ecological problems are complex is highlighted by two cases - Lyme Disease and Ross River Fever. The summary focusses on what having and 'ecological world view' entails. In essence, this chapter sets out Krebs' basic focus - the idea that ecology is a perspective as well as a science. The aim as I see it from this point is to show how and where ecology can be used to describe our world and parameterise our actions. Chapter two looks at the idea of ecological range starting with the concept of range and the paradox of scales through to some of the key principles we use e.g. Rapoport's Rule. A few key laws are summarised showing how theory and practice meet. Chapter three asks why ranges exist. Here the author takes a less usual perspective by using scale to differentiate range delimiters. Global scales are controlled by dispersal, regions by abiotic factors and local scales by biotic controls. This is followed by consideration of the ecological impacts of behaviour and the costs and benefits involved. Chapters five and six are linked by their examination of population dynamics with five focussing on changes in space and six with changes in time. It is clear that species cannot expand indefinitely (although humans seem to consider themselves immune which is where this book comes in!) and that there are limits. Here, spatial limits are reduced to resources whilst time limits are a question of positive and negative population feedback. This latter point is amplified in the next three chapters. The first two look at factors which reduce population levels through predation, herb ivory and competition interspecifically and infection and parasites, intraspecifically. Since populations to thrive there must be some positive trends and chapter 9 discusses these, notably mutual interactions and commensalism. Chapter 10 focusses on population regulation. As such it brings together the three earlier chapters to show how this complexity actually drives population dynamics. It also adds other features like demographics to explain population levels. The next four chapters are also linked by a common thread - community dynamics with each chapter showing how one element works. The first is succession in chapter 11. Although hinted at in chapter six for species this works at the community level. Allied to this is change in space but with biodiversity rather than more conventional zonations explanations leading the way. Communities are driven by energy and challenged by change and so chapter 13's look at food webs provides the former and chapter 14's consideration of disturbance ecology the latter. This is also the point at which complexity ideas can be put forward as an alternative model. Food webs were located in a section on dynamics yet their is more to energy than this. Chapters 15 and 16 make good this deficit by discussing the role and development of energy flows (biotic) and nutrient cycling (abiotic). Landscape ecology ties this together in chapter 17. The final four chapters show how ecology can be used to study and comment upon the increasing human use (and misuse) of our planet's resources. Each chapter takes a different story and although this is not comprehensive (nor was it meant to be with the range of cases available) these are four highly topical studies: fishing, pests, conservation and ecosystem services. Each one of these has a significant (and growing) impact upon people with fish stocks in decline, pests spreading through global warming, conservation with too many losses against too few wins and ecosystem services seen as the 'new' way to argue for ecosystem conservation.

Overall this is a text dominated by high quality production, colour illustrations and careful, restrained use of some important devices such as outlines and case studies to start and references and questions to finish. Scattered through the text are images of key ecologists and small essays illustrating some key points. It is an excellent introduction to ecology and does much to support the thesis of the ecological world view. This book deserves the widest circulation and should be considered an essential purchase for the institution library. Krebs has pulled off a stunning double act in a small time span cementing his reputation not just as an ecologist but also ecological writer.





To top