the natural world
Egret, the oldest independent
U.S. journal of nature
Egret, Vol. 75, #1
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by the Outrider
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.
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.
the Past to the Future
by Richard H.W. Bradshaw and Martin Sykes
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.
to The Nature Pages
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?
Species, plant or animal, that play very important roles within the
local ecosystem and whose absence can significantly affect the