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Animals such as wolves, sea otters, and sharks exert a disproportionate influence on their environment; dramatic ecological consequences can result when they are removed from – or returned to – an ecosystem.
In The Wolf's Tooth, scientist and author Cristina Eisenberg explores the concept of "trophic cascades" and the role of top predators in regulating ecosystems. Her fascinating and wide-ranging work provides clear explanations of the science surrounding keystone predators and considers how this notion can help provide practical solutions for restoring ecosystem health and functioning.
Eisenberg examines both general concepts and specific issues, sharing accounts from her own fieldwork to illustrate and bring to life the ideas she presents. She considers how resource managers can use knowledge about trophic cascades to guide recovery efforts, including how this science can be applied to move forward the bold vision of rewilding the North American continent. In the end, the author provides her own recommendations for local and landscape-scale applications of what has been learned about interactive food webs.
At their most fundamental level, trophic cascades are powerful stories about ecosystem processes – of predators and their prey, of what it takes to survive in a landscape, of the flow of nutrients. The Wolf's Tooth is the first book to focus on the vital connection between trophic cascades and restoring biodiversity and habitats, and to do so in a way that is accessible to a diverse readership.
Introduction: Visitors from the North
PART I. Web of Life
Chapter 1. Patterns in an Ecosystem
Chapter 2. Living in a Landscape of Fear: Trophic Cascades Mechanisms
Chapter 3. Origins: Aquatic Cascades
Chapter 4. Why the Earth Is Green: Terrestrial Cascades
Chapter 5. The Long View: Old-Growth Rain Forest Food Webs
PART II. Mending the Web
Chapter 6. All Our Relations: Trophic Cascades and the Diversity of Life
Chapter 7. Creating Landscapes of Hope: Trophic Cascades and Ecological Restoration
Chapter 8. Finding Common Ground: Trophic Cascades and Ecosystem Management
Epilogue: Lessons from 763
Cristina Eisenberg is a conservation biologist at Oregon State University, College of Forestry, and Boone and Crockett Fellow who studies how wolves affect forest ecosystems throughout the West.
"A scientist with a poet's command of language, Cristina Eisenberg writes with precision and passion [...] takes her reader on a breathtaking, sometimes heartbreaking tour of the planet from the Gulf of Maine to the Amazonian rain forests, the tropical coral reefs to old growth forests of the Northwest as well as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. I found the wealth of information not only accessible but riveting [...] Eisenberg's powerful, beautifully written book [...] has the potential to open many people's eyes, minds, and hearts."
– Elizabeth Cunningham, Huffington Post
"An enlightening work that will advance understanding of biodiversity and how to sustain it."
"[S]trike[s] at the heart of what it means to be a biologist."
– The Scientist
"A wonderful example of the inspiration that comes from the natural history set."
"Fully referenced, meticulously researched and beautifully written, The Wolf's Tooth is an absorbing read for anyone interested in biodiversity, ecology, conservation or wildlife management [...] everyone with a serious interest in ecology, conservation, ecosystem management and/or biodiversity should read Eisenberg's book. I loved it, and developed an enhanced understanding of trophic cascades research and ecosystem change. In a world where habitats and communities are changing fast due to human action, such concepts as sequential faunal collapse and ecosystem degradation are going to become all too familiar."
– Tetrapod Zoology
"[C]olourful [...] The author's writing style is readable, enjoyable and occasionally extremely lyrical [...] an extremely interesting and enjoyable synthesis of the science of trophic cascades."
"The Wolf's Tooth is an engaging read which will be of wide interest to all ecologists, even those whose research is not focussed on predators."
– Austral Ecology
"A fascinating book. If you want to know more about the relationship between animals and the land they live in it's a worthwhile read with the potential to open many people's hearts, minds and eyes."
– Wolf Print
"Eisenberg is that rare writer who blends accessible descriptions of science with a lyrical sensitivity to the spiritual qualities of nature. Here, she uses these talents to present a highly readable summary of trophic cascades, the ripples felt through marine, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems when top predators are removed or reintroduced. The result of this blending of science and aesthetics is an engaging and even uplifting read. Highly recommended."
"This engaging book explores the reasons we need big predators and explains the most revolutionary idea found in contemporary ecology: trophic cascades. For nearly a century ecologists have believed that nature is democratic, governed from the bottom up by the amount of solar energy converted to green biomass, the food of herbivores. Eisenberg makes the case for the alternative view – top-down control of ecosystems by predators and other keystone species – while diplomatically exploring a path for reconciling these disparate views."
– Michael Soulé, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Cristina Eisenberg weaves her observations as a scientist and her personal experiences afield into a resonant account about the web of life that links humans to the natural world. Grounded in best science, inspired by her intimate knowledge of the wolves she studies, she offers us a luminous portrait of the ecological relationships that are essential for our well-being in a rapidly changing world. The Wolf's Tooth calls for a conservation vision that involves rewilding the earth and honoring all our relations."
– Brenda Peterson, author of I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth
"We've been practicing 'scientific' wildlife management for decades with a shaky grasp of how natural systems actually work. As the focus shifts, at last, from favored species toward biodiversity and community ecology, exciting new concepts such as trophic cascades and the keystone roles played by long-reviled predators come to the fore. This is the next level of conservation, as complex as it is crucial. You couldn't ask for a better guide than Cristina Eisenberg, blending tales from her own field studies with wonderfully clear explanations of the connections that keep nature vibrant and whole over time."
– Douglas H. Chadwick, wildlife biologist, conservation reporter, and author of The Wolverine Way
"The Wolf's Tooth takes a venerable but misunderstood concept in ecology and renders it fresh, clear, and vital. In elegant prose drawn from her own deep experience in the field, Cristina Eisenberg has written a genuinely important contribution to the conservation biology canon. Besides showing how trophic cascades actually work, and how top predators can help rewild North America, her book is a fine primer for both theoretical and practical ecology."
– Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen and Chasing Monarchs