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Desert Ecology: An Introduction to Life in the Arid Southwest

Overview

Natural History

"An energetic start quickly became a trudge; we glanced back frequently towards our point of departure, an air-conditioned vehicle. Not only did the hot air feel like a blast from a smelter’s furnace, but within minutes the reflected sunlight was doing perceptible damage to any exposed skin. I’m sure I was sweating more than I ever had before, yet my skin was dry...We found ourselves blinking rapidly to keep the eyes moist. After a few more minutes, we turned ...

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Overview

Natural History

"An energetic start quickly became a trudge; we glanced back frequently towards our point of departure, an air-conditioned vehicle. Not only did the hot air feel like a blast from a smelter’s furnace, but within minutes the reflected sunlight was doing perceptible damage to any exposed skin. I’m sure I was sweating more than I ever had before, yet my skin was dry...We found ourselves blinking rapidly to keep the eyes moist. After a few more minutes, we turned back for the car, leading our youngest child who would no longer open her eyes."
- John Sowell

Unlike books that merely identify what plants and animals live in the desert, Desert Ecology is a comprehensive but accessible introduction to how these organisms live where they do. Beginning with an overview of the Intermountain, Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts, Sowell presents the topographic and the meteorologic conditions that created these regions. He continues with a thorough examination of physiologic and behavioral adaptations that enable plants and animals, even humans, to survive and persist in these inhospitable places.

While basic scientific principles—such as photosynthesis, trophic levels, thermoregulation, and osmoregulation—are presented in terms that nonspecialists will understand, the real draw is the fascinating life histories of dozens of particular organisms. Explore the life cycle of the yucca and creosote bush, trace the wanderings of the gila monster and tenebrionid beetle, breathe in the rhythms of the desert at night.

"This book is for the curious," says the author, for all who enter the "wasteland," on foot or through imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a highly informative book, clearly and economically written. Buying it and learning from it would be part of a good adaptive strategy for us humans."—Southwestern American Literature 
Booknews
Sowell (biology, Western State College, Colorado) provides an introduction to desert ecology for the student of biology or the nonbiologist interested in desert phenomena. Focusing on life in North American deserts and the uniqueness of desert organisms, it uses minimal technical language and accessible but well-chosen b&w maps, charts, and photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874806786
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,368,028
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Sowell is professor of biology at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
I The Desert Environment 1
II Plant Adaptations to Aridity, Heat, and Salinity 24
III Plant Life Histories: Of Birds and Bees 46
IV Animal Adaptations: Thermoregulation 59
V Animal Adaptations: Osmoregulation 81
VI Animal Life Histories 102
VII Desert Ecosystems 116
VIII Islands in the Sky 140
IX Humans in the Desert 152
Conversion Factors for Units of Measurement 169
Selected Readings 171
Index 187
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