Where ghostly Jack will help you recover your ecosystem

Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
November 24, 2000

Viewed from space, the earth is largely a blue planet, reflecting the dominance of its surface water cover. Of the resources vital to life, water is the one that has to be actively sought in the greatest amount. But these bodies of water are also the home of complex ecosystems. Demand for water and population growth has fuelled human intervention in water-based ecosystems.

Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management is the journal of the scientific society of the same name and was first published in 1998. The name is perhaps misleading. There is little "management" in the contributions, and the health element has to be interpreted as "status" or "wellbeing". Those interested in (human) health-related aspects of aquatic ecosystems - Cryptosporidia , viral and bacterial status, heavy metals and pesticide loadings - will be disappointed.

Seven of the nine issues provided for review have been dedicated special issues, an unusually high proportion for an academic journal. The majority of these seven issues are, in effect, conference proceedings and a double-volume special issue on Mexico is, the editor admits, the core chapters of a book that failed fully to materialise.

The final special issue celebrates the life and work of Jack Christie, a Great Lakes scientist, through a set of memorial essays.

Conference proceedings and book chapters are seldom perceived to be in the same academic league as peer-reviewed journal papers and the reader could be forgiven for interpreting this journal as something of a mixed-bag (perhaps "catch" would be a more appropriate metaphor here).

In fairness, the editor and advisers have for the most part been firm in holding an acceptable standard of science. The exception is the special issue on Mexico. It contains a very odd paper that would be much more at home in an education journal and appears to have nothing to do with waters or ecosystems. But that is compensated for by some excellent science (the study on Lake Baikal being outstanding).

Yet it is not the science that makes the most memorable reading in the 100 papers reviewed. In the essays about Jack Christie, there is a review of management, impact and progress over a generation. It presents a discussion between two scientists (one a ghostly Jack) that serves to remind that, despite some complex, obscure and perhaps unnecessary science, effective management changes and ecosystem recoveries have been accomplished.

This journal merits a place in the library of aquatic scientists but will gather dust on the shelves of water managers. If special issues are to remain a dominant feature, every effort should be made to make the issue topic focused, in the style of the issue devoted to toxicology, rather than focused on a conference location.

Adrian McDonald is professor of environmental management, University of Leeds.

Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management: (four times a year)

Editor - M. Munawar
ISBN - ISSN 1463 4988
Publisher - Elsevier
Price - £74.00 (individuals) £184.00 (institutions)

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