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Under Ground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt Shape Our World [NOOK Book]

Overview

In childhood, the backyard, the flowerbed, the beach, puddles, lakes, and streams are infinitely fascinating. It is a mistake to leave that "childish" fascination with mud behind. The soils of the Earth, whether underneath our feet or pressurized beneath tons of ocean water, hold life in abundance. A handful of garden dirt may harbor more species than the entire aboveground Amazon.

The robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity made headlines as ...
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Under Ground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt Shape Our World

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Overview

In childhood, the backyard, the flowerbed, the beach, puddles, lakes, and streams are infinitely fascinating. It is a mistake to leave that "childish" fascination with mud behind. The soils of the Earth, whether underneath our feet or pressurized beneath tons of ocean water, hold life in abundance. A handful of garden dirt may harbor more species than the entire aboveground Amazon.

The robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity made headlines as they searched the Martian landscape for signs of life. But while our eyes have been turned toward the skies, teeming beneath us and largely unexplored lies what Science magazine recently called the true "final frontier." A growing array of scientists is exploring life in soils and sediments, uncovering a living world alien to our own senses--and yet one whose integrity turns out to be crucial to life above ground.

Yvonne Baskin takes the reader from the polar desert of Antarctica to the coastal rain forests of Canada, from the rangelands of Yellowstone National Park to the vanishing wetlands of the Mississippi River basin, from Dutch pastures to English sounds, and beyond. She introduces exotic underground creatures and shows us what scientists are learning about their contribution to sustaining a healthy world above ground. She also explores the alarming ways in which air pollution, trawl fishing, timber cutting, introductions of invasive species, wetland destruction, and the like threaten this underground diversity and how their loss, in turn, affects our own well being.

Two-thirds of the world's biological diversity exists in soils and underwater sediments, and yet most of us remain unaware of these tiny multitudes that run the planet beneath the scenes. In Under Ground, Baskin reveals the startling ways in which that life, whether in our own back yards, in fields and forests, or in the furthest reaches of the Earth, is more significant and fascinating than we once imagined.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nematodes, slime molds and fungi are unexpectedly fascinating in this enjoyable tour of a new ecological frontier: life underground. Discovery of this below-ground ecology has forced a rethinking of how ecosystems work. Baskin (A Plague of Rats and Rubbervines) leads with a trip to Antarctica, where nematodes stretch out a seven-month life span to decades by drying out during hard times: as one scientist says, "the time scales of the ecology and the geology become almost the same." Other excursions include the English coast, where the clams, shrimp and worms of the sea floor may be critically important to fish stocks, and western Canada, where clear-cutting can shock the underground creatures so badly that nothing will grow above ground until new soil flora, fauna and fungi are brought in from healthier regions. Baskin explores nuance and paradox: for instance, earthworms are beneficial in worked-out agricultural land but harmful in forests. The enthusiasm of scientists for their microfauna is infectious ("Scottnema is king, he's just lovely," says Diana Wall of a one-millimeter nematode). Enjoyable, well researched and well documented, this book will provide both armchair ecologists and professionals an eye-opening look at the deep complexity of our ecosystems. B&w illus. (July 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Northeastern Naturalist

"Baskin takes us on a tour around the globe and beneath the soil surface to describe the unique and fascinating creatures that make their living underground in some of the earth's most interesting habitats...Every one of the eight intriguing chapters will be appreciated by anyone with an interest in the natural world, especially the unseen world right under our feet."
University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University - E.O. Wilson

"At last, proper attention is given to the vast biomass and biodiversity at our feet, humanity's absolute dependence upon this layer of life, and the need to expand science and conservation to save it. This is a well-written and important book."
President of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Enviro - Thomas E. Lovejoy

"With fabulous prose, Yvonne Baskin takes us through an ecological looking glass to the wonderland of underground… to the scarcely explored living world of soil and sediment so fundamental to the future of life on earth, including our own. This text is essential to understanding what treading lightly truly means...required reading (for all) made delightful."
e with Nineveh - Paul R. Ehrlich

“This is, at last, a fresh, comprehensive understanding of soil and its wonderful world of unseen biodiversity. One of the most talented science writers, Yvonne Baskin has presented a clear view of amazing creatures and microbes and their profound influence on the surface world, including our national economies. Under Ground will be both fascinating for laypersons and extremely useful for scientists like myself who understand how critical the soil is but know too little about it.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597269384
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 6/6/2006
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 246
  • Sales rank: 1,158,885
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Yvonne Baskin is author of The Work of Nature (Island Press, 1997) and A Plague of Rats and Rubbervines: The Growing Threat of Species Invasions (Island Press,2002). Her articles have appeared in Science, Natural History, Discover, and numerous other publications.



The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) was established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 1969. It brings together natural and social scientists to identify emerging or potential environmental issues and to address jointly the nature and solution of environmental problems on a global basis.



With its headquarters in Paris, France, SCOPE programs are conducted by volunteer scientists from every inhabited continent of the globe.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: Opening the Black Box
Chapter 2. Where Nematodes Are Lions
Chapter 3. Of Ferns, Bears, and Slime Molds
Chapter 4. The Power of Ecosystem Engineers
Chapter 5. Plowing the Seabed
Chapter 6. Microbes, Muck, and Dead Zones
Chapter 7. Fungi and the Fate of Forests
Chapter 8. Grazers, Grass, and Microbes
Chapter 9. Restoring Power to the Soil
 
Epilogue
Notes
 
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