Good introductory ecology texts are rare. They should stimulate further inquiry and should be topical, clear and exciting. They should be comprehensive enough to include the major principles without requiring further resources, yet should be well referenced. Examples should be relevant to the student's local environment, while reflecting biogeographical regions and world ecosystem types. Introductory Ecology comes close to satisfying all these requirements.
Ecology texts often fail to travel across the Atlantic, but this volume includes authors from the US and UK - and a breadth of relevant examples given in an American textbook style - and is in my view the best to be found outside Open University texts. Coverage is good, with a strong emphasis on biodiversity and evolutionary biology.
Simple, clear diagrams and a box format present special topics and worked examples sympathetically to non-specialists and beginners. Life tables, for example, are neither oversimplified nor impenetrable.
It is always possible to criticise omissions or undertreatment. In my opinion, ecosystem energy transfer deserves more space. It is also a shame not to bring the propagators of seminal ideas to life; where would plate tectonics be without Alfred Wegener?
Overall, this is a good introduction to what is acknowledged to be a complex subject.
Tony Andrew is lecturer in environmental science, University of Ulster, Coleraine.
Introductory Ecology. First edition
Author - Peter Cotgreave and
ISBN - 0 632 042 3
Publisher - Blackwell
Price - £21.95
Pages - 8