Biogeochemical Cycles in Globalization and Sustainable Development by Vladimir F. Krapivin and Costas A. Varotsos


Biogeochemical Cycles in Globalization and Sustainable Development , by Vladimir F. Krapivin and Costas A. Varotsos . Chichester , UK : Springer Praxis , 2008 , 562 pp., ISBN 9783540706618, $189.00 .

The authors of Biogeochemical Cycles in Globalization and Sustainable Development, Krapivin and Varotsos, fall far short of fulfilling their book's visionary promise. The alluring title suggests that the reader is about to embark on an interesting exploration of the interface between biogeochemical cycles and sustainable development, with particular emphasis on the macro global scale. The back cover would have the reader believe that, in addition to offering in-depth analysis of biogeochemical cycles, including numerical modeling, the book contextualizes these biogeochemical cycles within social processes, providing “insight into the social context of global changes in biogeochemical cycles.” No substantive analysis of anthropogenic systems materializes, however, although the authors have more than 500 pages to delve more deeply into how biogeochemical cycles interface with the anthropogenic cycles that are often at the center of industrial ecology studies.

For instance, although they are primitive compared to the causal numerical models of carbon or nitrogen cycles developed by biogeochemists, quantified global material flow cycles of metals that integrate anthropogenic and natural processes have been generated (Rauch and Graedel 2007; Rauch and Pacyna 2009). Unfortunately, even for the biogeochemical cycles discussed in this book, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, the authors do not seem to be aware of the more recent quantified global cycles that do integrate natural and anthropogenic processes, albeit as budgets and not as numerical models (for phosphorous, see the work by Smil [2000]; for nitrogen, see the work by Galloway et al. [2004]). The authors recognize the promise of such integration: the ability to understand the complex processes, feedbacks, and multiorder effects that occur due to anthropogenic impacts on biogeochemical cycles. To the reader's disappointment, though, they fail to get much beyond descriptions, modeling, and analysis of the aspects of these cycles as they relate to climate change.

So what does the book actually explore? Chapters 3, 4, and 7 emphasize the relationship between climate and the carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles. The authors are experts in atmospheric science and applied mathematics, and the field bias shows: The chapters focus predominantly on numerical modeling of climate-change-related biogeochemical cycles, with special emphasis on atmospheric processes. Outside literature beyond the authors’ spheres of competence is poorly incorporated or ignored—for instance, they include almost no citations of work from the ecological economics or industrial ecology fields. The book would be more appropriately titled Numerical Modeling of Biogeochemical Cycles and Their Relationship to Climate Change.

Chapter 4 is the chapter most true to the general title of the book, as it explores numerical modeling of the sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorous, oxygen, and hydrological cycles, in addition to carbon compounds. Yet this chapter is essentially the same as chapter 5 of a preceding book by the same authors, Global Carbon Cycle and Climate Change (Kondratyev et al. 2003). In fact, portions of chapter 2 regarding fisheries, agriculture, and forestry management are taken directly from sections 1.5–1.6 of this prior book, and chapter 3, on the carbon cycle, is essentially a condensed rearrangement, with minor additions and copy editing, of chapters 3 and 4 of the authors’ previous work. Yet the reader is left oddly unaware of this duplication, as the current book includes no citation of Global Carbon Cycle and Climate Change. As such, the present text provides little new information about biogeochemical cycles in general, especially given that the rest of the book is predominantly concerned with carbon dioxide, methane, and aerosols as they relate to perturbations of atmospheric air temperatures.

Despite the opportunity the authors miss with this particular book, the intersection of biogeochemistry and sustainable development is an abundantly fertile area of study for industrial ecologists. Although chapter 2 comes closest to a discussion of this interaction, it is the shortest chapter of the book; it only introduces the concepts of sustainability indicators and the environmental pressures of population, giving a general overview of numerically modeling human development impacts. By contrast, the authors could have incorporated further analysis and discussion on interactions such as agricultural production, food consumption, sewage and manure wastes, natural biomass assimilation, and hydrological impacts in an integrated description of the perturbation of nitrogen in this particular aspect of its cycle. The book is a disappointing read for industrial ecologists, and one would be best served to look elsewhere for a true in-depth analysis of the integration of biogeochemical processes and sustainable development.