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Title: Ecology of Insects: concepts and Applications
Author(s): Martin R Speight, Mark D Hunter, Allan D Watt
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Pages:ix + 628 ISBN: 978 1 4051 3114 8
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Educator







Content: 1 – An overview of insect ecology; 2 - Insects and climate; 3 - Insect herbivores; 4 - Resource limitation; 5 - Natural enemies and insect population dynamics; 6 - Evolutionary ecology; 7 - Physiological ecology; 8 - Insects in ecosystems; 9 - Biodiversity; 10 - Insect conservation; 11 - Insects and disease; 12 - Insect pest management.

Review: In the nine years since the first edition there have been, as the authors point out in their introduction, a number of significant changes not least in the new taxonomic position of insects. As one might expect there have also been changes to several chapters to highlight changes in knowledge and also in the relative importance of topics. Global warming and pathogen studies have increased interest in insects and these are also reflected in the text. This suggests a good reason to upgrade because these changes are sufficient, at an advanced level, to warrant such a move. To those new to this text there's much to be interested in .Insects make ideal ecological studies. They comprise a major contribution to biodiversity and their life cycles are sufficiently short to study changes. They are also easier to study (which is a no inconsiderable element when so much school-based science is hedged around with safety).

Given these plus factors, how does this text help us move our study forward? We get a very good answer in chapter one which acts as both introduction and overview. A very brief outline of the history of entomology gives way to discussions on insect structure and taxonomy, evolution, distributions, life cycles and human/insect interactions. From this point, the book looks at the most important aspects of insect ecology. Chapter two describes the changes in insect numbers due to climatic variations finishing with an examination of the likely impacts of global warming. Insects are key herbivores: chapter three shows not just the herbivory but the defences by plants and the interdependence of the two for the community. The next four chapters discuss the major limitations on insects and how they might be overcome. Chapter four is more of an overview with general considerations of resource limits. Chapter five looks at the impact of insect enemies (predators, parasites and pathogens) that seek to influence insect numbers. This leaves the next two chapters to focus loosely on responses - evolutionary and physiologically respectively. The text takes another turn from this point to focus more on the interactions of insects with the wider ecological community (including people). Chapter 8 looks at the role of insects in ecosystems of which the most important is herbivory. Chapter 9 considers the role of insects in biodiversity. Insects are by far the largest group at present and their presence is a key determinant of ecosystem health. It is tempting to suggest that such biodiversity means insects are not threatened but, as chapter 10 shows only too well, there are numerous species in danger of extinction and probably many already gone. A detailed picture of threats to insects is built up and some ideas for conservation put forward - clearly a priority given the role insects play. Although we want to conserve insects, too often we need to see the other side - the role of insects in disease transmission and how we might control insect pests. The final two chapters deal with these ideas showing how widespread the problem is and how we might deal with it. A substantial bibliography completes the text.

This is a significant addition to the first edition without the clutter that can build up if careful editing is not carried out. It is undoubtedly an advanced text but one which could be used to great effect in field work and engendering interest in a range of ecologically-related topics. A great reference text well worth adding to the library.





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