The Biology of Deserts

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Overview

This book offers a concise but comprehensive introduction to desert ecology and adopts a strong evolutionary focus. As with other titles in the Biology of Habitats Series, the emphasis in the book is on the organisms that dominate this harsh environment, although theoretical and experimental aspects as well as conservation and desertification are also considered

Deserts are defined by their arid conditions; a consequence of this aridity is that most of the area occupied by desert is barren and monotonous, leading many people to regard it as wasteland. However, deserts are widespread and represent surprisingly biodiverse environments, although it is the relative simplicity of these ecosystems that makes them more tractable for study than more complex environments. In these resource-poor locations, natural selection is working at its most extreme and provides some of the best-known examples of Darwinian selection.

The Biology of Deserts includes a wide range of ecological and evolutionary issues including morphological and physiological adaptations of desert plants and animals, species interactions, the importance of predation and parasitism, food webs, biodiversity and conservation. It features a balance of plant and animal (both invertebrate and vertebrate) examples, and also emphasizes topical applied issues such as desertification and invasive species. The book concludes by considering the positive aspects of desert conservation.

Each of the books in the Oxford Biology of Habitats Series introduces a different habitat, and gives an integrated overview of the design, physiology, ecology, and behaviour of the organisms found there. The practical aspects of working within each habitat, the sorts of studies that are possible, and habitat biodiversity and conservation status are all explored.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Deserts are places where we can often see evolution in action, and David Ward has written a book that is compelling in its breadth and depth of coverage. Buy it, and you will not be disappointed and will be able to come back to it many times and always learn something new and exciting."—Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

"Ward has done extensive, excellent ecological work in the deserts of southern Africa and Israel...does an exemplary job juggling both plant and animal ecology."—Plant Science Bulletin

"...a unique text on desert biology."—Dr. Michael A. Mares, University of Oklahoma

"This book offers a unique cutting edge look at deserts."—Professor David Saltz, Ben Gurion University of The Negev, Israel

"Nevertheless, by compiling studies that represent taxa in different deserts into a comparative exploration of ecological pattern and process, the author establishes an engaging framework that allows readers to consider the convergent breadth of a particular solution to living in a harsh and extreme environment. This book might therefore raise questions that would launch a graduate student into a productive avenue of research. The volume could serve as a textbook for a seminar course on desert biology, provided availability of suplementary materials that fill in details on specific desert systems." — The Quarterly Review of Biology, Volume 86

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199211463
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2009
  • Series: Biology of Habitats Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor David Ward obtained his PhD in 1987 from the University of Natal, South Africa. After working in Israel and Canada he is now back in South Africa, where he is Chair of Botany at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research interests lie in the field of the ecology and genetics of plant-animal interactions, and he has published 130 scientific articles in international journals. He is an Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Vegetation Science and Applied Vegetation Science.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

2 Abiotic factors 11

3 Morphological and physiological adaptations of desert plants to the abiotic environment 29

4 Morphological, physiological, and behavioural adaptations of desert animals to the abiotic environment 66

5 The role of competition and facilitation in structuring desert communities 102

6 The importance of predation and parasitism 124

7 Plant-animal interactions in deserts 145

8 Desert food webs and ecosystem ecology 177

9 Biodiversity and biogeography of deserts 192

10 Human impacts and desertifiation 217

11 Conservation of deserts 246

References 269

Index 317

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