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The Ecology Book

Book Description

Explore ecology in this accessible introduction to how the natural world works and how we have started to understand the environment, ecosystems, and climate change.

Using a bold, graphic-led approach, The Ecology Book explores and explains more than 85 of the key ideas, movements, and acts that have defined ecology and ecological thought.

The book has a simple chronological structure, with early chapters ranging from the ideas of classical thinkers to attempts by Enlightenment thinkers to systematically order the natural world. Later chapters trace the evolution of modern thinking, from the ideas of Thomas Malthus, Henry Thoreau, and others, right up to the political and scientific developments of the modern era, including the birth of the environmental movement and the Paris Agreement.

The ideal introduction to one of the most important subjects of our time.

Table of Contents

    1. Time is insignificant and never a difficulty for nature • Early theories of evolution
    2. A world previous to ours, destroyed by catastrophe • Extinction and change
    3. No vestige of a beginning—no prospect of an end • Uniformitarianism
    4. The struggle for existence • Evolution by natural selection
    5. Human beings are ultimately nothing but carriers for genes • The rules of heredity
    6. We’ve discovered the secret of life • The role of DNA
    7. Genes are selfish molecules • The selfish gene
    1. Lessons from mathematical theory on the struggle for life • Predator–prey equations
    2. Existence is determined by a slender thread of circumstances • Ecological niches
    3. Complete competitors cannot coexist • Competitive exclusion principle
    4. Poor field experiments can be worse than useless • Field experiments
    5. More nectar means more ants and more ants mean more nectar • Mutualisms
    6. Whelks are like little wolves in slow motion • Keystone species
    7. The fitness of a foraging animal depends on its efficiency • Optimal foraging theory
    8. Parasites and pathogens control populations like predators • Ecological epidemiology
    9. Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze? • Ecophysiology
    10. All life is chemical • Ecological stoichiometry
    11. Fear itself is powerful • Nonconsumptive effects of predators on their prey
    1. In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous • Classification of living things
    2. By the help of microscopes nothing escapes our inquiry • The microbiological environment
    3. If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost • A system for identifying all nature’s organisms
    4. “Reproductively isolated” are the key words • Biological species concept
    5. Organisms clearly cluster into several primary kingdoms • A modern view of diversity
    6. Save the biosphere and you may save the world • Human activity and biodiversity
    7. We are in the opening phase of a mass extinction • Biodiversity hotspots
    1. It is the microbes that will have the last word • Microbiology
    2. Certain tree species have a symbiosis with fungi • The ubiquity of mycorrhizae
    3. Food is the burning question • Animal ecology
    4. Birds lay the number of eggs that produce the optimum number of offspring • Clutch control
    5. The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be • Animal behavior
    6. Redefine “tool”, redefine “man”, or accept chimpanzees as humans • Using animal models to understand human behavior
    7. All bodily activity depends on temperature • Thermoregulation in insects
    1. Every distinct part of nature’s works is necessary for the support of the rest • The food chain
    2. All organisms are potential sources of food for other organisms • The ecosystem
    3. Life is supported by a vast network of processes • Energy flow through ecosystems
    4. The world is green • Trophic cascades
    5. Islands are ecological systems • Island biogeography
    6. It is the constancy of numbers that matters • Ecological resilience
    7. Populations are subjected to unpredictable forces • The neutral theory of biodiversity
    8. Only a community of researchers has a chance of revealing the complex whole • Big ecology
    9. The best strategy depends on what others are doing • Evolutionarily stable state
    10. Species maintain the functioning and stability of ecosystems • Biodiversity and ecosystem function
    1. The philosophical study of nature connects the present with the past • The distribution of species over space and time
    2. The virtual increase of the population is limited by the fertility of the country • The Verhulst equation
    3. The first requisite is a thorough knowledge of the natural order • Organisms and their environment
    4. Plants live on a different timescale • The foundations of plant ecology
    5. The causes of differences among plants • Climate and vegetation
    6. I have great faith in a seed • Ecological succession
    7. The community arises, grows, matures, and dies • Climax community
    8. An association is not an organism but a coincidence • Open community theory
    9. A group of species that exploit their environment in a similar way • The ecological guild
    10. The citizen network depends on volunteers • Citizen science
    11. Population dynamics become chaotic when the rate of reproduction soars • Chaotic population change
    12. To visualize the big picture, take a distant view • Macroecology
    13. A population of populations • Metapopulations
    14. Organisms change and construct the world in which they live • Niche construction
    15. Local communities that exchange colonists • Metacommunities
    1. The glacier was God’s great plow • Ancient ice ages
    2. There is nothing on the map to mark the boundary line • Biogeography
    3. Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening • Global warming
    4. Living matter is the most powerful geological force • The biosphere
    5. The system of nature • Biomes
    6. We take nature’s services for granted because we don’t pay for them • A holistic view of Earth
    7. Plate tectonics is not all havoc and destruction • Moving continents and evolution
    8. Life changes Earth to its own purposes • The Gaia hypothesis
    9. 65 million years ago something killed half of all the life on the Earth • Mass extinctions
    10. Burning all fuel reserves will initiate the runaway greenhouse • Environmental feedback loops
    1. Environmental pollution is an incurable disease • Pollution
    2. God cannot save these trees from fools • Endangered habitats
    3. We are seeing the beginnings of a rapidly changing planet • The Keeling Curve
    4. The chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life • The legacy of pesticides
    5. A long journey from discovery to political action • Acid rain
    6. A finite world can support only a finite population • Overpopulation
    7. Dark skies are now blotted out • Light pollution
    8. I am fighting for humanity • Deforestation
    9. The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting • Ozone depletion
    10. We needed a mandate for change • Depletion of natural resources
    11. Bigger and bigger boats chasing smaller and fewer fish • Overfishing
    12. The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm • Invasive species
    13. As temperatures increase, the delicately balanced system falls into disarray • Spring creep
    14. One of the main threats to biodiversity is infectious diseases • Amphibian viruses
    15. Imagine trying to build a house while someone keeps stealing your bricks • Ocean acidification
    16. The environmental damage of urban sprawl cannot be ignored • Urban sprawl
    17. Our oceans are turning into a plastic soup • A plastic wasteland
    18. Water is a public trust and a human right • The water crisis
    1. The dominion of man over nature rests only on knowledge • Humankind’s dominance over nature
    2. Nature is a great economist • The peaceful coexistence of humankind and nature
    3. In wildness is the preservation of the world • Romanticism, conservation, and ecology
    4. Man everywhere is a disturbing agent • Human devastation of Earth
    5. Solar energy is both without limit and without cost • Renewable energy
    6. The time has come for science to busy itself with the Earth itself • Environmental ethics
    7. Think globally, act locally • The Green Movement
    8. The consequences of today’s actions on tomorrow’s world • Man and the Biosphere Programme
    9. Predicting a population’s size and its chances of extinction • Population viability analysis
    10. Climate change is happening here. It is happening now • Halting climate change
    11. The capacity to sustain the world’s population • Sustainable Biosphere Initiative
    12. We are playing dice with the natural environment • The economic impact of climate change
    13. Monocultures and monopolies are destroying the harvest of seed • Seed diversity
    14. Natural ecosystems and their species help sustain and fulfill human life • Ecosystem services
    15. We are living on this planet as though we have another one to go to • Waste disposal