Ecologists are concerned not only with communities, populations and organisms in nature, but also with manmade or human-influenced environments (plantation forests, wheat fields, grain stores, nature reserves and so on), and with the consequences of human influence on nature (pollution, overharvesting, global climate change). In fact, our influence is so pervasive that we would be hard pressed to find an environment that was totally unaffected by human activity. Environmental problems are now high on the political agenda and ecologists clearly have a central role to play: a sustainable future depends fundamentally on ecological understanding and our ability to predict or produce outcomes under different scenarios.
When the first edition of this text was published in 1986, the majority of ecologists would have classed themselves as pure scientists, defending their right to pursue ecology for its own sake and not wishing to be deflected into narrowly applied projects. The situation has changed dramatically in 20 years, partly because governments have shifted the focus of grant-awarding bodies towards ecological applications, but also, and more fundamentally, because ecologists have themselves responded to the need to direct much of their research to the many environmental problems that have become ever more pressing. This is recognized in this new edition by a systematic treatment of ecological applications - each of the three sections of the book concludes with an applied chapter. We believe strongly that the application of ecological theory must be based on a sophisticated understanding of the pure science. Thus, our ecological application chapters are organized around the ecological understanding presented in the earlier chapters of each section.
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