Books  Habitats, Ecosystems & Natural Spaces  Marine 

What is Natural? Coral Reef Crisis

By: Jan Sapp

275 pages, 12 b/w photos, line illus

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Aug 2003 | #151507 | ISBN: 0195161785
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £17.49 $21/€20 approx
Hardback | Jun 1999 | #86711 | ISBN: 0195123646
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £28.99 $35/€33 approx

About this book

This book is a history of the outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish over the past 30 years. These outbreaks have at times appeared likely to consume coral reefs in many parts of the world, threatening some of the most picturesque, diverse, and scientifically and economically valuable of the earth's ecosystems. The story provides a case study for assessing our understanding of the balance of nature, and whether such a balance really exists.

Dr. Sapp has written a masterful story of the crown-of-thorns starfish controversy. It is not only a story of the relationship of coral-reef science to ecology and the politics of environmentalism but also a stark illustration of how poorly we understand the biology of coral reefs--one of the most diverse ecosystems covering more than one million square kilometers of our planet.--Ira Rubinoff, Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
"Anyone with even a passing interest in coral reef ecology, or in the ways that scientific controversies play out, will find Sapp's narrative an absorbing read. He offers lucid accounts of technical reports and the media's spin of the story, as well as in-depth profiles of the major players."--Civilization
"It is fascinating to read a history of the evolution of coral-reef science in the context of ecological paradigms of the times, written from an unbiased perspective of an historian outside the field. This is a genuine interest to all those interested in the history of science, especially for those interested in the development of ideas in ecology and coral-reef science. It gives coral-reef scientists insight into the context of their own development."--Charles Birkeland, University of Guam Marine Laboratory
"Distinguished historian of science Jan Sapp tells the colorful and often gripping story of the threats to coral reefs posed by the mysterious population explosion of the crown-of-thorns starfish.... Through interviews with the scientists and environmentalists most closely involved, Sapp's lively account of scientific issues and personality conflicts reveals that such shocking environmental upheavals hold signallessons for us today."--John Ogden, Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography
"As the poet sees 'the world in a grain of sand, ' so does Jan Sapp see the complexity of the biosphere in the entwined life histories of coral reefs and their enemy, the crown-of thorns starfish. This thoroughly documented account is rich in anecdotes from the Dante-esque comedy of human investigations. A sensitive inquiry into the fundamental problems of complexity and stability that human beings have yet to solve."--Garrett Hardin, Emeritus Professor of Human Ecology, University of California, Santa Barbara


Introduction; 1. Green Island; 2. Guam; 3. The War of the Worlds; 4. Under Capricorn; 5. Crown-of Thorns Inquisition; 6. A Tree Fell in the Forest..; 7. Knowledge and Action; 8. Oceans Apart; 9. Remote Control; 10. Complexity and Stability; 11. Cyclical Outcries; 12. Cross Roads; 13. Coral Bleaching and Global Warming; 14. Cassandra and the Sea Star

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