Most of the current crop of ecology texts focus on the science
of ecology usually in terms of individuals, communities and
ecosystems. Whilst this is an excellent approach for teaching
introductory ecology courses it does less to help those who
have some background knowledge and need to see what are the
basic concepts in a topic and the key developments/issues arising.
This text seeks the latter course with the aim of providing,
as the title suggests, a critical reflection on current ecology.
It is not a basic ecological text but it does tackle themes
from an introductory perspective. What is also provides is that
element of reflection and discourse that is often missing.
editor has gathered a large number of contributors (over 120)
to put together 92 briefings divided into 7 key areas. This
alone is an impressive set of statistics but as always, it’s
the detail that counts. We start with autecology and the studies
of single species’ interactions. Starting with an article
on niche, this section continues to survey the major sub-topics
in the field including organismal physiology, behavioural ecology,
geographic range and evolution. Part two looks at populations
including demography, metapopulation analysis, competition and
predation finishing with an examination of coevolution. Following
the ‘tradition’ of introductory ecology, part three
examines the interactions within communities and ecosystems.
Here, the focus is on aspects of biodiversity, community organisation,
biogeochemical cycles and responses to change. If these three
parts could be said to be the ‘theoretical’ side
then the remainder of the text focuses on the ‘applied’
aspects. Part four examines ecosystems at the larger scale of
landscapes. Here, human action can have a considerable impact
not least in species and habitat loss. Contributions here focus
on biodiversity, fragmentation, boundary dynamics and specific
area dynamics e.g. coral reefs. Part five follows logically
in that it examines the theory and practice of conservation.
It starts with species loss and continues with topics of species
viability, reserve design and conservation dynamics. Part six
turns to the increasingly popular aspect of ecosystem services.
In a text where critical reflection is key, this part stands
out with the topics it explores which include trade-offs, ecosystem
examination and technological examination. Finally, part seven
studies ecosystem management from agriculture to wildlife to
chapter follows a common pattern which makes it extremely easy
to switch between topics. An outline and opening paragraph is
followed by a glossary, discussion of the topic and references.
Although each topic varies in size there’s an average
of 6-10 pages each.
this is an excellent guide. It provides the reader (with some
knowledge of ecology) a series of excellent overviews of both
topic and the discussions surrounding it. The quality of work
and editing is uniformly excellent. Although similar to the
of Life Sciences it has the advantage of being more obviously
critical. This is one text that needs to be on all library shelves
if we are to make our students more critical learners.