Physiological ecology of North American plant communities

Physiological ecology of North American plant communities

86 The book gives a useful account of the problems which arise and the skills necessary in solving them (mainly for Czechoslovakia). It is also a use...

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The book gives a useful account of the problems which arise and the skills necessary in solving them (mainly for Czechoslovakia). It is also a useful review of the fundamental aspects of forest hydrology and hydraulics in the context of torrent control and soil conservation for forest practioners in similar situations and for forestry students. PROF.DR. E.F. BRUENIG Universitiit Hamburg Leuschnerstr. 91 D-2060 Ham burg 80 F.R.G.


Physiological Ecology of North American Plant Communities by B.F. Chabot and H.A. Mooney, Chapman and Hall Ltd., 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE, 1985, 351 pp., hardcover, $32.50 HB ISBN: 0-41223240-5. Two questions automatically arise when one regards the title of this book: is it possible to write a book on the physiological ecology of a continent’s vegetation? And is it worthwhile to read this book? Let us judge after describing its contents! The preface is a homage to Dwight Billings whose influence was felt by all the authors in one way or another. The first chapter is an outline of the historical development of physiological plant ecology, starting on a global scale, but later focusing more and more to North America. Fourteen chapters follow, which are devoted to the main biomes of the continent, namely (1) Arctic (F.S. Chapin and G.R. Shaver), (2) Alpine (L.C. Bliss), (3) Taiga (W.C. Oechel and W.T. Lawrence), (4) Western montane forests (W.K. Smith), (5) Coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest (J.P. Lassoie, T.M. Hinckley and C.C. Grier), (6) Annuals and perennials of warm deserts (J. Ehleringer), (7) Desert succulents (P.S. Nobel), (8) Cold desert (M. Caldwell), (9) Chaparral (H.A. Mooney and P.C. Miller), (10) Grasslands (P.G. Risser), (11) Deciduous forest (D.J. Hicks and B.F. Chabot), (12) Tropical and subtropical forest (R.W. Pearcy and R.H. Robichaux), (13) Marine beach and dune plant communities (M.G. Barbour, T.M. De Jong and B.M. Pavlik), (14) Coastal marshes (B.L. Haines and E.E. Dunn). In spite of the multiplicity of 24 authors, the chapters have a general scheme in common: description of the environmental conditions; response of the plants; summary or conclusions. In all chapters the greatest attention is paid to the physiological ecology of plants. Here a vast amount of literature is evaluated concerning not only photosynthesis and photosynthetic pathways, production, water relations and mineral nutrition, but also phenology, life forms and life cycles. Very comprehensive data are given, often condensed in tables, the ecology of the most important species is described, and hypotheses are discussed with the aim of a better understanding of these species within their respective communities and with respect to their adaptation to the environment.


Omissions are apparently made with intention and not by mistake. Thus, “allelopathy” is not mentioned in the chaparral chapter (the experiments of C.H. Muller are discussed under the heading “fire ecology”), the term prairie is avoided as far as possible in the grassland chapter and in the chapter on (sub)tropical forest, reference is made to Hawaii but not to the Southeast. In all cases the central parts of the chapters are reviews full of valuable information. In this sense every chapter is complete in itself even when read in isolation. The great potential problem that some chapters extend in scope over a large part of the continent (Chapters 14 and 15) whereas others are rather local (Chapter 13) has been overcome with elegance. Likewise very few overlappings occur. An exception is the timberline, which is discussed three times under different aspects using widely different literature (Chapters 3.9, 4.11 and 5.3.3). Shortcomings or inequalities between the chapters are of secondary importance. In most cases full information is provided on the climate, but not always according to the same scheme. The information on soils differs from chapter to chapter both in length and precision (e.g. that desert soils show “lack of development”, p. 164, is not really true). Comparable differences can be observed with the description of plant communities, which vary from rather complete to nearly lacking. In a few cases communities are described without naming a single plant species (e.g. Table 2.2). Latin names were widely used, in most cases together with the trivial names, but to a different extent in the different chapters. The weakest point of the book is obviously the index. I was not able to ascertain the mode by which plant names or subjects were selected to be included in the index or not. The reader of this journal will find comprehensive information on the productivity of the vegetation, but not on yield. Agricultural ecosystems are not dealt with. Grazing is mentioned just twice (in the grasslands and in the tundra), but otherwise lies outside the scope of this book. In conclusion: is it possible to write a book on the physiological ecology of a continent’s vegetation? Yes, it apparently is, and it is worthwhile for every ecologist to study it. I wish there were such a book about Europe! PROF.DR. R. BORNKAMM Technische Universitiit Znstitut fiir Ecology West Berlin Rothenburgstr. 12 D-1000 Berlin 41 F.R.G. EROSION

Erosion and Soil Productivity.

Proceedings of the National Symposium on Erosion and Soil Productivity, American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, MI, 1985, 289 pp., price: US$ 26.00, ISBN: 0-91615069-0.

Scientists and engineers interested in soil erosion effects research about this topic at the 1984 National Symposium

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