Fresh water covers only a tiny part of the Earth's surface. Nevertheless, its importance for drinking water, irrigation, fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism is beyond dispute. Limnology, the science of inland waters, provides a necessary scientific basis for the management of lakes and rivers. There is, however, a bigger and more fundamental role for limnology. Even the earliest limnologists believed that they had an important message for ecology. This continuing belief is highlighted by article titles like "the lake as a microcosm" (Forbes 1877) and "copepodology for the ornithologist" (Hutchinson 1951). Lakes, in particular, have been considered as little theaters where the great play of the ecological interactions, interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environment, could be studied more easily than anywhere else. Lakes can serve as those little theaters ("microcosms" sensu Forbes) because they are relatively easy to sample, because they have clear-cut boundaries (compared to terrestrial ecosystems) and because field experiments are relatively easy to perform. There has been a continuous flow of information from limnology into other fields of ecology, at all levels of science, starting from methodological problems of quantitative sampling to the highly abstract concepts such as the food chain and the trophic cascade. One of the most prominent limnol-ogists, G.E. Hutchinson, has developed most of the foundations of modern population and community ecology. Conversely, limnology has received inputs mainly from theoretical ecology and less so from experimentalists and field ecologists outside the field of limnology. The exception is marine ecology, which has provided limnology with some important methodological advances. More than any other subdiscipline of ecology, limnology has helped bridge the gap between models of theoretical ecology and experimental research. The idea of "the lake as a microcosm" implies, of course, a concept of "unity of ecology". It can be assumed that the same principles and laws govern limnetic, marine and terrestrial communities.
Some time ago we felt our German students needed a textbook that demonstrated the close connection between limnology and ecology. In order to clearly identify the concept of this book we invented the term "limnoecology". The "unity of ecology" structured our book. It is modeled after ecology textbooks with a sequence from more elemental to more complex units: individuals, populations, coupled populations, communities, and ecosystems. We did not intend to write another limnology text, but rather incorporated evolutionary aspects as we believe that a Darwinian approach to ecology is needed to explain biological phenomena. Hence, the physical, chemical, and geological background is reduced to the explanation of abiotic factors driving organismal adaptations. This book was first published in German, and we were surprised to see that the demand was not restricted to Germany. After a first translation into Polish, Oxford University Press made an English edition (translated by James F. Haney) possible. However, not only has general biology developed at a fast pace in the past 10 years, new methods and topics have also been adopted in ecology and limnology. For example, population ecology has increased in importance by the incorporation of molecular genetic tools. Microbial ecology profited from the same tools, as they allow the identification of nonculturable bacteria. Stable isotopes have been used to study food webs and carbon vi
cycling. Global issues such as climate change and biodiversity have become focal points in research, and they have finally entered the political arena. Long-term data sets have become valuable tools for the analysis of ecosystem responses to anthropogenic stress. Consequently, the book needed an update. We are grateful to OUP for the opportunity to write a new edition. Although the general approach of the book has not changed we have added new results and literature, and incorporated new ideas and methodologies that were not available 10 years ago. We thank many colleagues and students for valuable suggestions of new topic and improvements of the old text, and we hope to receive continuing feedback to develop this text further.
Was this article helpful?