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Ecosystem Dynamics

The world faces several troubling environmental challenges that are closely linked to society, politics and economics. This book examines ecosystem dynamics from the deep past into an uncertain future.

Bamboo Forest

Shen Kua was a Chinese scientist with broad interests who lived during the eleventh century A.D. Shen obeserved petrified bamboos, complete with roots and trunks, in a section of riverbank in northern China where no bamboos then grew.  He deduced that the local climate must once have been wetter than it was and became the first of many observers to reconstruct a past climate from part of a species distribution: "Perhaps in very ancient times the climate was different so that the place was low, damp, gloomy, and suitable for bamboos." Shen made a valuable observation and quite logically assumed that the altered distribution of his bamboo over time was driven by climate change.

Ecosystem Dynamics

From the Past to the Future
by Richard H.W. Bradshaw and Martin Sykes
Wiley-Blackwell, 2014

Terrestial ecosystems comprise just 29 percent of the Earth's surface, yet this is where almost all human life resides, grows food and draws the raw materials for existence. This book explores the long-term dynamics of these dry land ecosystems, stretching back 20,000 years, in order to better understand and anticipate the impact of climate change and human activities.

"The human race has now moved into the driving seat of all terrestial ecosystems and the control panel is complex," the authors point out. "There is no owner's manual and several systems are already careening out of control. There is an urgent need to understand these controls and to use our power wisely."

The book's 10 chapters describe the models used to interpret the dynamics of climate and living species, exploring the  historic record of ecosystems and the implications of societal change. Directed toward students of environmental sciences, in particular, it also provides land use professionals, policy makers and researchers critical guidance for the sustainable management of terrestial ecosystems.

Plant Kingdom Chart

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Boreal forest beneath Goldensides Mountain, Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Territory, Canada
Prior to the origin of agriculture, most of mainland Europe was covered by forest. The long-term history of human impact has to a large extent been mirrored by the extent of forest cover. How much of Europe would have been forest covered by the mid-Holocene if people had neither used fire nor developed agriculture?

Red-headed, Lewis's, Hairy and Do woodpeckers
Keystone species.

Species, plant or animal, that play very important roles within the local ecosystem and whose absence can significantly affect the ecosystem.