Why vegetable matters are a growing concern

Plant Ecology. First Edition
February 24, 2006

This is an in-depth and up-to-date textbook of ecology in its broadest sense. The coverage is wide, but also detailed and well explained.

It includes the molecular and physiological level of ecology as well as whole-plant and vegetation ecology and global plant ecology.

The book is divided into five large chapters, each of which has many subdivisions. The first chapter is on the influence of stress on the ecology and physiology of plants. It includes sections on stress caused by unusual temperature ranges, oxygen and water deficiency, salt, heavy metals and aluminium, and by more recent human causes such as herbicides and air pollutants. It concludes with a section on biotic stress such as herbivory, infection by disease and allelopathy. There is much material here of use to the more practical users of ecological information such as agriculturalists and foresters - for example, the adaptation of plants to various natural and human-caused stresses.

The second chapter covers autecology or whole-plant ecology and includes thermal balance, water relations, nutrient relations and the carbon balance and photosynthesis of plants.

Chapter three is on ecosystem ecology and, after defining ecosystems, it covers processes such as self-thinning, species diversity and disturbance, and the biogeochemical cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen and cations. It concludes with three well-chosen case studies on soil acidification, deciduous and coniferous forests and limestone and siliceous rocks.

The fourth chapter covers synecology, which is the development of vegetation in time and space and its interaction with abiotic and biotic environmental factors. There are useful sections on the history of early vegetation up to the end of the Tertiary age and on the Pleistocene and more recent postglacial natural climate changes. The section on synchorology deals with the distribution of plants, the relationship between area and species and the concept of regional biodiversity.

The final chapter on global aspects of plant ecology makes this a current text and brings together many of the ideas presented in earlier chapters through treating the global cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur and then concludes with a section on the human influences on global ecology. It is here that climate change and the carbon balance are discussed as well as current land use and the loss of biodiversity. There is also a section on the importance of climate change to Europe. Even this balanced and scientific treatment of the subject yields much cause for alarm about what we are doing to the life-sustaining ecology of our planet.

The final section treats socioeconomic aspects of ecology.

A strength of the book is that it is abundantly illustrated with many photographs, graphs and drawings to explain the more complex issues described in the text. References are given before and after each section.

These are wide ranging, taken from the current ecological, environmental and physiological literature, and will be of much use to both teachers and students.

The text is full of examples from many different ecosystems around the world, but there is a distinct emphasis on north temperate and arid systems rather than tropical ecology. Though the book is well structured, it is in some places slightly repetitive, but this is a useful feature, since it enables students interested in one part of ecology such as autecology, synecology or physiological ecology to get the full story from the chapter in their field of interest.

Overall, Plant Ecology is a broad-ranging textbook aimed at graduate students, postgraduate students and teachers of ecology, which will also be of considerable use to researchers in botany, forestry, agriculture and landscape studies. It brings together for the first time in a single text the huge range of topics that fall under plant ecology with an emphasis on the physiological.

Sir Ghillean Prance is former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and scientific director of the Eden Project.

Plant Ecology. First Edition

Author - Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Erwin Beck and Klaus Muller-Hohenstein
Publisher - Springer
Pages - 702
Price - £57.50
ISBN - 3 540 20833 X

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