296 pages, 16 plates with colour photos; 92 b/w photos and illustrations
In Green Equilibrium, Christopher Wills explains the rules by which ecosystems maintain a diversity of interdependent species, in particular the balance of predators and prey. Wills is both an eminent academic and a hugely experienced field-biologist. In presenting the concept of 'green equilibrium', he draws on a fascinating range of examples, including coral reefs off the densely populated Philippines, the isolated and densely forested valleys of Papua New Guinea, the changing Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and a Californian ranch being allowed to return to a wild state. In each case he assesses the impact of modern changes and attempts at conservation on these delicately balanced ecosystems.
Wills shows how human populations, too, are an integral part of the picture. We now know from genetic evidence that over the course of history, as humans spread out of Africa, populations adapted as a result of environmental conditions. Striking new evidence indicates that some human populations carry genes from past encounters with other hominids (Neanderthals and Denisovans), as well as genetic adaptations to local hazards such as malaria. Wills argues that the most effective approaches to conserving green equilibria come out of evolutionary insights, and from close involvement of the local communities who have lived and adapted to them.
1. How Ecosystems Work
2. Maintaining a Green Equilibrium
3. Stewardship and its Perils
4. The Challenge of Restoration Ecology
5. Catastrophes of the Past: How Three Different Ecosystems Have Responded to Existential Threats
6. A Blending of Genetic Equilibria: The Origins of Our Species
7. Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi
8. Introgression and Equilibria in Our Gene Pools
9. The Intertwined Histories of Humans and Their Ecosystems
10. Learning From Our History
11. The Origin of Our Pretty Good Brains
12. Genes, Cultures, and Green Equilibria
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Christopher Wills is Professor of Biological Sciences and member of the Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of California. He received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999. His research interests include the maintenance of genetic variability in human populations, the forces that maintain variation in complex ecosystems such as rainforests and coral reefs, the evolution of diseases, and the evolution of our species. He is the author of The Darwinian Tourist (OUP, 2010).