Top 2016 Ecology Books

These are my top ten picks for ecology books published in 2016. They are mostly centered around my own interests, e.g. island biogeography or the Middle East, but there is something for everyone here. YMMV, and they are not ranked in any way. Included is the text blurb; personal review available on request!

Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Evolution; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History; Philosophy.


  • Ecology in Action

    by Fred D. Singer [Cambridge University Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $51.68 £36.05 EUR 57,70 EUR 53,60 EUR 53,23 EUR 58,74 CDN$ 74.99

  • Taking a fresh approach to integrating key concepts and research processes, Ecology In Action encourages students to develop an understanding of how ecologists raise and answer real-world questions. Four unique chapters describe the development and evolution of different research programs in each of ecology’s core areas, showing students that research is undertaken by real people who are profoundly influenced by their social and political environments. Beginning with a case study to capture student interest, each chapter emphasizes the linkage between observations, ideas, questions, hypotheses, predictions, results, and conclusions. Discussion questions, integrated within the text, encourage active participation, and a range of end-of-chapter questions reinforce knowledge and encourage application of analytical and critical thinking skills to real ecological questions. Students are asked to analyze and interpret real data, with support from online tutorials demonstrating the R programming language for statistical analysis.


  • In The Theory of Ecological Communities, Mark Vellend builds a theory of ecological communities based on four overarching processes: selection among species, drift, dispersal, and speciation. These are analogues of the four central processes in population genetics theory–selection within species, drift, gene flow, and mutation–and together they subsume almost all of the many dozens of more specific models built to describe the dynamics of communities of interacting species. The result is a theory that allows the effects of many low-level processes, such as competition, facilitation, predation, disturbance, stress, succession, colonization, and local extinction to be understood as the underpinnings of high-level processes with widely applicable consequences for ecological communities.


  • Plant-animal interaction systems are complex food webs where the members, viz., plants, pollinators, herbivores, parasites and predators of the pollinators/herbivores interact with each other in ways which maximize their own fitness. Based on the net outcome, such interactions could be mutually beneficial to the interacting members (mutualism) or beneficial to only one of the interacting members at the cost of the other interacting members (herbivory, predation, parasitism). It is possible that such outcomes are a continuum and could swing in either direction from beneficial to detrimental and vice versa. Such transitions happen not only over long time scales, but could also happen within shorter time scales based on conditionalities. Conditional outcomes are those in which the outcome of an interaction between two partners is conditional on the involvement of a third partner. Thus, studying such outcomes necessitates taking into account systems beyond the classical two-partner interactions.


  • Ecology is in a challenging state as a scientific discipline. While some theoretical ecologists are attempting to build a definition of ecology from first principles, many others are questioning even the feasibility of a general and universal theory. At the same time, it is increasingly important that ecology is accurately and functionally defined for a generation of researchers tackling escalating environmental problems in the face of doubt and disagreement. The authors of Theory-Based Ecology have written a textbook that presents a robust, modern, and mathematically sound theory of ecology, maintaining a strong link between empirical data, models, and theory. It is firmly based in Darwinian thought, since it was Darwin who first revealed the ecological principles of the origin of species, and gave the evolution of diversity a process-based, mechanistic explanation.


  • The Biology of Deserts Second Edition 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.


  • Plant Ecology in the Middle East explores the intriguing flora and plant ecology of the Middle East, framed by a changing desert landscape, global climate change, and the arc of human history. This vast region has been largely under-recognized, under-studied, and certainly under-published, due in part to the challenges posed to research by political disputes and human conflict, and a treatise on the subject is now timely. The book integrates Middle Eastern plant geography and its major drivers (geo-tectonics, seed and fruit dispersal, plant functional types, etc.) with the principles of plant ecology. The authors include the many specialized adaptations to desert and dryland ecosystems including succulence, water-conserving photosynthesis, and a remarkable range of other life history strategies. They explore the formation of ‘climate relicts’, and describe the long history of domestication in the region together with the many reciprocal effects of agriculture on plant ecology. The book concludes by discussing conservation in the region, highlighting five regional biodiversity hotspots where the challenges of desertification, habitat loss, and other threats to plant biodiversity are particularly acute.


  • A Biogeoscience Approach to Ecosystems

    by Edward A. Johnson [Cambridge University Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $67.77 £50.51 EUR 74,84 EUR 70,25 EUR 65,21 EUR 70,41 CDN$ 94.96

  • Biogeoscience is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that aims to bring together biological and geophysical processes. A Biogeoscience Approach to Ecosystems builds an enhanced understanding of ecosystems by focusing on the integrative connections between ecological processes and the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. Each chapter provides studies by researchers who have contributed to the biogeoscience synthesis, presenting the latest research on the relationships between ecological processes, such as conservation laws and heat and transport processes, and geophysical processes, such as hillslope, fluvial and aeolian geomorphology, and hydrology. Highlighting the value of biogeoscience as an approach to understand ecosystems, this is an ideal resource for researchers and students in both ecology and the physical sciences.


  • Quantitative Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Integrating Models with Data achieves an integration of empirical data and theory with the aid of mathematical models and statistical methods. The emphasis throughout is on spatial ecology and evolution, especially on the interplay between environmental heterogeneity and biological processes. The book provides a coherent theme by interlinking the modelling approaches used for different subfields of spatial ecology: movement ecology, population ecology, community ecology, and genetics and evolutionary ecology (each being represented by a separate chapter). Each chapter starts by describing the concept of each modelling approach in its biological context, goes on to present the relevant mathematical models and statistical methods, and ends with a discussion of the benefits and limitations of each approach. The concepts and techniques discussed throughout the book are illustrated throughout with the help of empirical examples.


  • From a small island in the Baltic Sea to the large tropical islands of Borneo and Madagascar, Messages from Islands is a global tour of these natural, water-bound laboratories. In this career-spanning work, Ilkka Hanski draws upon the many islands on which he performed fieldwork to convey key themes in ecology. By exploring the islands’ biodiversity as an introduction to general issues, Hanski helps us to learn how species and communities interact in fragmented landscapes, how evolution generates biodiversity, and how this biodiversity is maintained over time.


  • Ecology of Urban Environments provides an accessible introduction to urban ecology, using established ecological theory to identify generalities in the complexity of urban environments.


    Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Evolution; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History; Philosophy.

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