In their rapid colonization of soil exposed by fires, floods, and grazing animals, weeds resemble the human specialists we label Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Weeds are the first responders when disasters occur in nature. They occupy bare soil and prevent erosion by wind and water. In extreme cases such as a landslide, weeds are essential to the healing processes that replace the lost soil. Like a Band-Aid on a skinned knee, weeds protect the land while it recovers. Besides protecting the soil after disaster, weeds provide food for wildlife, and some of them provide food and medicine for people. Able to withstand harsh conditions, weeds will proliferate as global warming and other human impacts intensify. Thus, nature’s EMTs will increase while all other plants decline. The book provides a succinct definition of weeds according to their form and function in ecosystem processes. The narrative uses a representative set of weed species from a desert location to illustrate the full range of weed characteristics.
After completing his PhD in biogeography, Garry Rogers served on the Geography faculty of Columbia University in New York until 1987. At Columbia, he published two books and a series of articles on fire ecology and vegetation dynamics. From Columbia, he moved into a research position with the U. S. Forest Service and then to the U. S. Justice Department. In 2007, he began spending time with the regional weed management association and focusing on nature conservation issues. Over the past 10 years, he has written three novels, four wildlife monographs, and many short pieces on weeds and conservation.