A new book by Professor Mark Hunter, “The Phytochemical Landscape: Linking Trophic Interactions and Nutrient Dynamics (Monographs in Population Biology)” will hit bookshelves August 9, 2016, published by the Princeton University Press.
Ecologists have struggled to understand how the behavior and density of animal populations, such as the interactions between herbivores and their predators, influence ecosystem processes such as carbon and nutrient cycling. At the same time, nutrient cycling feeds back to influence the behavior and density of animals in ecosystems. The book provides a template for understanding the feedback processes between animals and ecosystems by illustrating how plant chemistry mediates the processes. Plants contain a dazzling array of compounds that influence both how predators interact with their prey and how nutrients are recycled in ecosystems. Plant chemistry is therefore a nexus through which population processes and ecosystem processes interact in nature. The book introduces the concept of the “phytochemical landscape,” which describes how complex plant chemistry changes over space and over time. By studying the phytochemical landscape, we can start to understand how animal populations and ecosystem processes are intimately linked in nature.
“Quite often, we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of teaching, current research objectives and our administrative responsibilities,” said Hunter. “Taking time to think about the ‘big picture’ of our science can be challenging. For me, writing the book was an opportunity to step back and think more broadly and synthetically about the work that we've done.”
An editorial review of the book by David Wardle, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said it “is destined to become a classic in the general ecological literature.” And Robert Holt, University of Florida, calls the book, “essential reading for all ecologists.”
Another editorial review by Oswald J. Schmitz, author of “Resolving Ecosystem Complexity,” states: “This timely and authoritative book offers a potentially transformative way of integrating several disparate ecological subfields to foster the pursuit of big-picture ecological science. It could only have been written by someone with Mark Hunter's vision and breadth and depth of knowledge."
Hunter started the book in June 2012 and completed the first draft in 2014. The first draft took longer than the year he expected because he expanded the book to include lake and marine systems in addition to his usual haunts, terrestrial systems. Then, based on valuable feedback from reviewers, he spent until fall 2015 on revisions and adding a couple of chapters. So, it took a little over three years, from start to finish, including the finer details of production.
Hunter has been researching the topic of the book for about 30 years. “It was my opportunity to look hard at that body of work, see what general principles had emerged, to look beyond our work to other ecosystems, and to see what was still missing.” He also wanted to provide a road map for how to move ecological research forward. “But that will be for the next generation of ecologists to consider.”
Hunter is the Henry A. Gleason Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. Previous books include “Ecology of Insects: Concepts and Applications.”
“The Phytochemical Landscape” is available in hardcover and on Kindle through Amazon.com and the Princeton University Press, which will have an exhibit at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting, August 7 – 12, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the book will be available.