What Is Natural?: Coral Reef Crisis

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Oxford University Press, 2003 - Nature - 275 pages
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During the late 1960s and 1970s, massive herds of poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish suddenly began to infest coral reef communities around the world, leaving in their wake devastation comparable to a burnt-out rainforest. In What is Natural?, Jan Sapp both examines this ecological catastrophe and captures the intense debate among scientists about what caused the crisis, and how it should be handled.
The crown-of-thorns story takes readers on tropical expeditions around the world, and into both marine laboratories and government committees, where scientists rigorously search for answers to the many profound questions surrounding this event. Were these fierce starfish outbreaks the kind of manmade disaster heralded by such environmentalists as Rachel Carson in Silent Spring? Indeed, discussions of the cause of the starfish plagues have involved virtually every environmental issue of our time--over-fishing, pesticide use, atomic testing, rain forest depletion, and over-population--but many marine biologists maintain that the epidemic is a natural feature of coral-reef life, and ecological "balance of nature" that should not be tampered with until we know the scientific truth of the crisis. But should we search for the scientific truth before taking action? And what if an environmental emergency cannot wait for a rigorous scientific search for "the truth"?
The starfish plagues are arguably one of most mysterious ecological phenomena of this century. Through the window of this singular event, What is Natural lucidly illustrates the complexity of environmental issues while probing the most fundamental questions about the relationship between man and nature.
 

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What is natural?: coral reef crisis

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Sapp, a history of science professor at York University in Canada and author of other natural history books, including Evolution by Association (Oxford Univ., 1994), provides thought-provoking insight ... Read full review

Contents

GREEN ISLAND
1
GUAM 19681969
13
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
35
UNDER CAPRICORN
49
CROWNOFTHORNS INQUISITION
65
A TREE FELL IN THE FOREST
77
KNOWLEDGE AND ACTION
95
OCEANS APART
115
COMPLEXITY AND STABILITY
141
CYCLICAL OUTCRIES
163
CROSSROADS
175
CORAL BLEACHING AND GLOBAL WARMING
189
CASSANDRA AND THE SEASTAR
203
NOTES
217
INDEX
267
Copyright

REMOTE CONTROL
127

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About the author (2003)


Jan Sapp is a Professor of the History of Science in the Department of Biology, at York University, in Toronto, Canada. He has written two other books for Oxford: Evolution by Assciation (1994) and Beyond the Gene (1987).

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