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Why Ecology Matters

Global temperatures and seawater levels rise; the world’s smallest porpoise species looms at the edge of extinction; and a tiny emerald beetle from Japan flourishes in North America—but why does it matter? Who cares? With this concise, accessible, and up-to-date book, Charles J. Krebs answers critics and enlightens students and environmental advocates alike, revealing not why phenomena like these deserve our attention, but why they demand it.

Highlighting key principles in ecology—from species extinction to the sun’s role in powering ecosystems—each chapter introduces a general question, illustrates that question with real-world examples, and links it to pressing ecological issues in which humans play a central role, such as the spread of invasive species, climate change, overfishing, and biodiversity conservation. While other introductions to ecology are rooted in complex theory, math, or practice and relegate discussions of human environmental impacts and their societal implications to sidebars and appendices, Why Ecology Matters interweaves these important discussions throughout. It is a book rooted in our contemporary world, delving into ecological issues that are perennial, timeless, but could not be more timely.

Read the first chapter.

208 pages | 68 halftones, 12 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology

Earth Sciences: Environment


Why Ecology Matters is quite different from traditional ecology texts. Krebs does not attempt to cover classic studies or the authors of many of our main theories. To many ecologists, this will be a blasphemous approach to teaching ecology, but engaging a nonspecialist audience necessitates focusing on the major ideas and how they affect people, rather than on science per se. Rather than trying to cover all the core principles and concepts in ecology, Krebs covers twelve main messages, explicitly tying these messages to human-caused changes and impacts, as well as potential society feedback. In this way, he explores the full gamut of ecology for a range of readers.”

Marc W. Cadotte, University of Toronto Scarborough, coeditor of "Invasive Species in a Globalized World: Ecological, Social, and Legal Perspectives on Policy"

"To this end, I...try to find topics and case studies that resonate with as many of my students as possible. This book provides a wealth of ideas and examples that do exactly that. And the presentation is perfect for a nonspecialist audience....The result is a presentation that is lucid, concise..., and effective."

Quarterly Review of Biology

Table of Contents

1 What Limits the Geographic Distribution of Organisms?
2 Populations Cannot Increase without Limit
3 Favorable and Unfavorable Habitats Exist for Every Species
4 Overexploited Populations Will Collapse
5 Plant and Animal Communities Can Recover from Disturbances
6 Communities Can Exist in Several Configurations
7 Keystone Species May Be Essential to the Functioning of Biological Communities
8 Natural Systems Are Products of Evolution
9 Natural Systems Recycle Essential Materials
10 Solar Energy Powers Natural Ecosystems
11 Climates Change, Communities and Ecosystems Change
12 Extinction Is Forever and Species Losses Caused by Humans Are Avoidable

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