Yellowstone's Wildlife in Transition. White, P. J., R. A. Garrott, and G. E. Plumb. 2013. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 347pp. $45.00 (hardcover). ISBN 978–0–674–07318–0.
This book continues a long tradition of pronouncing upon the state of wildlife in Yellowstone National Park with optimism and certainty in the science. Over the years such pronouncements have provided much fodder for controversy, making Yellowstone a richer microcosm for learning about the practice of conservation than likely was ever intended. The editors of this volume and over 30 contributors provide a comprehensive overview of the state of knowledge about Yellowstone's wildlife. For followers of the saga that is wildlife conservation in America's flagship national park this will be a very welcome addition. Tantalizingly though, the editors invoke some very interesting and new theoretical approaches to thinking about ecological change, yet do not dive as deeply into them as they could. Managing for change in protected areas is a topic whose urgency is growing quickly, so further writing on that topic by these experienced conservation scientists would be welcome.
Island Life: Or, the Phenomena and Causes of Insular Faunas and Floras, Including a Revision and Attempted Solution of the Problem of Geological Climates. Wallace, A. R. 2013 (originally published in 1880). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 526 pp. $30.00 (paperback). ISBN 978–0–226–04503–0.
Many readers of this journal will be very familiar with this foundational work by one of the world's all-time great field naturalists. Those who aren't should be, and this new edition makes such familiarization with the roots of island biogeography very easy. The book includes a foreword by David Quammen (an accomplished author in his own right) and a new introduction, with commentary, by Lawrence Heaney of the Field Museum in Chicago. Put this on your list of books to read.
Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Principles for the Built Environment. Adler, F. R., and C. J. Tanner. 2013. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. 345 pp. £38.00 (paperback). ISBN 978–0–521–74613–7.
This book is intended as an accessible introductory textbook on urban ecology and is based on a one-semester course at the University of Utah. Organized into 5 chapters, urban environments are introduced, their functions (such as energy budgets and the water cycle) are then explored systematically, as are aspects of their ecology. The final chapter explores the consequences of urban ecological processes for humans. Each chapter concludes with suggested questions, readings, and labs. The authors’ stated goal for this book is “to provide a framework of fundamental principles for thinking about ecological processes in urban environments” (p. ix). They have succeeded in that and in producing a practical and useful textbook.
Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation: Bridging the Gap Between Global Commitment and Local Action. Collen, B., N. Pettorelli, J. E. M. Billie, and S. M. Durant, editors. 2013. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, U.K. 448 pp. $89.95 (paperback). ISBN 978–1–4443–3292–6.
Based on a 2009 symposium at the Zoological Society of London, this book attempts to tackle important questions about biodiversity monitoring at national to global scales. It is written in the explicit context of the international Convention on Biological Diversity and the very clear failure to meet the convention's 2010 target. Monitoring biodiversity is a conceptually simple task, yet when it is done at all it is often done remarkably poorly. This book makes an important contribution to the literature on monitoring because it does not flinch from the hard questions about why that is so. Not all of these questions can be answered simply by more and better science, and this book covers those often-neglected nonscientific topics with equal vigor. Chapters on socioeconomic monitoring by Katherine Homewood, building sustainable monitoring networks by Sarah Durant, and monitoring in the real world by Julia Jones, are especially realistic and clear-eyed assessments. If ecological monitoring is what you do, you need to read this book.
On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship Between Life and Earth. Tyrrell, T. 2013. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 311pp. $35.00 (hardcover). ISBN 978–0–691–12158–1.
Controversy surrounding the Gaia theory since it was first postulated by James Lovelock in the 1970s resembles other long-running scientific debates about sociobiology and evolution. Tyrrell wades boldly into these debates and has assembled a comprehensive array of information with the aim of scientifically testing whether the Gaia hypothesis is supportable in light of what we now know about the planet. This book is a worthy contributor to this intellectual process, although it won't settle the current round of debates. Further, the author's conclusion—that there is no intrinsic planetary capability for self-regulation—is framed as a call to actively steward our planet in the absence of a hoped-for capability of the Earth to do that itself. This provocative recommendation will likely open up yet another round of debate, this time with those who question humanity's collective capacity for such intelligence and benevolence.