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Understanding Soil Change: Soil Sustainability over Millennia, Centuries, and Decades Reissue Edition

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0521039437
ISBN-10: 0521039436
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Editorial Reviews


"The authors write well ... They have effectively make their case." Earth Sciences History

"...a one-of-a-kind book for anyone interested in soils, changes in soils from human activity, and dependence on soils as a source of sustenance....A very readable work with excellent illustrations, figures, and tables, and extensive recommended readings and reference section. Undergraduates through professional; (Recommended for) two-year technical program students." Choice

"This marvellous little book tells the story of southeastern US ecosystems from the perspective of soil changes over timescales of decades, centuries and millennia...[It] fills an important niche in the biogeochemical literature, and not only as a regional case study...This study shows the importance of an integrated appraisal of soil dynamics in ecosystem function, and demonstrates the increasing maturity of soil science." Nature

"Understanding Soil Change is a pioneering book worthy of follow-ups...clearly written and well illustrated. It was used as a graduate text and is highly recommended to all soil scientists and their students-a fine example of a broad study of major soil changes and their relation to management. It should be no less relevant to ecologists, biologists, and geographers, who too frequently, when describing or studying ecosystems, disregard the importance of soil characteristics, their dynamics, and human impacts on soils." Soil Science

"...wonderful book is a great window for biologists into the most imprtant black box on Earth." Dan Binkley, Quarterly Review of Biology

"The book is a valued reference to environmental biologists for three reasons. First, the work provides an excellent overview of the challenge of soil sustainability given current and future food and fiber expectations. Second, the authors provide a focused perspective on the importance of time scales and land-use legacies in understanding the specific attributes of soil types found in many warm-temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Finally, and of particular interest, the authors detail the extent to which land use management (i.e. plant community composition) can modify soil characteristics...Many ecologists will find this book useful for both their teaching and their research efforts." Trends in Ecology and Evolution

"The book is very well written and pleasant to read ... a good addition to anyone's collection of books on soil and agriculture and forestry."

Book Description

Across the world, soils are managed with increasing intensity, yet we know little about how managed soils change through time. This book uses data from the long-term Calhoun Forest Experiment in southeastern North America to explore the legacy of soil change in a region of ecological, agricultural, and forestry significance. The resulting synthesis provides lessons for land management throughout the world and illustrates the need for a global network of similar soil-ecosystem studies to provide further information on sustainable land management, vital as human demands on soil continue to increase.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (August 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521039436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521039437
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,373,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dan Binkley on December 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To most biologists soils are the ultimate "black box." We know that civilization could not develop without soils, and that soils are not only the foundations of all terrestrial ecosystems, but also the environment for >99% of ecosystem biodiversity. Soil scientists have gained tremendous views inside of this black box, and Richter and Markewitz provide a grand tour for scientists and students of other disciplines. This wonderful book explores how fertile, biologically rich soils develop over long periods of time (including the major chemical change of acidification), and how these ecological systems change dramatically as humans alter the balances between inputs, outputs, and cycles. About half of the story focuses on the development of deep, ancient soils (accounting for 40% of the soils in the humid subtropics and tropics), and the other half on the broader context of time, soil development, and land use by people. The authors develop these themes by exploring a deep, highly weathered soil at the Calhoun Forest in South Carolina. Changes in the soil are traced from the Devonian to the Holocene, through the heyday of cotton agriculture in the early 1800s to the Civil War, to abandonment and planting with pine trees in the mid 1900s. The changes in the soils, both long-term and short-term, derive from weathering of the soil by acids produced by plants and microbes (carbonic acid from respiration, and low molecular weight organic acids), and by the accumulation of organic matter (a byproduct of decomposition of plant tissues). Native forest ecosystems are remarkably productive on the Calhoun soil, despite the soil's advanced weathering stage.Read more ›
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