Under Ground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt Shape Our World

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9781597260039: Under Ground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt Shape Our World

Let's get dirty. In childhood, the back yard, the flowerbed, the beach, the mucky place where land slips into puddles, lakes, and streams are infinitely fascinating. It is a mistake to leave that "childish" fascination with mud and dirt behind. The soils of the Earth, whether underneath our feet or pressurized beneath tons of ocean water, hold life in abundance. A handful of garden dirt may harbor more species than the entire aboveground Amazon.

The robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity made headlines as they scraped their way across the Martian landscape, searching for signs of life. But while our eyes have been turned toward the skies, teeming beneath us and largely unexplored lies what Science magazine recently called the true "final frontier." A growing array of scientists is exploring life in soils and sediments, uncovering a living world literally alien to our own senses--and yet one whose integrity turns out to be crucial to life above ground.

Yvonne Baskin takes the reader from the polar desert of Antarctica to the coastal rain forests of Canada, from the rangelands of Yellowstone National Park to the vanishing wetlands of the Mississippi River basin, from Dutch pastures to English sounds, and beyond. She introduces exotic creatures--from bacteria and fungi to microscopic nematode worms, springtails, and mud shrimp--and shows us what scientists are learning about their contribution to sustaining a green and healthy world above ground. She also explores the alarming ways in which air pollution, trawl fishing, timber cutting, introductions of invasive species, wetland destruction, and the like threaten this underground diversity and how their loss, in turn, affects our own well being.

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About the Author:

Yvonne Baskin is author of The Work of Nature (Island Press, 1997) and A Plague of Rats and Rubbervines: The Growing Threat of Species Invasions (Island Press, 2002). Her articles have appeared in Science, Natural History, Discover, and numerous other publications.

Review:

"At last, proper attention is given to the vast biomass and biodiversity at our feet, humanity's absolute dependence upon this layer of life, and the need to expand science and conservation to save it. This is a well-written and important book."
(E.O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

"With fabulous prose, Yvonne Baskin takes us through an ecological looking glass to the wonderland of underground... to the scarcely explored living world of soil and sediment so fundamental to the future of life on earth, including our own. This text is essential to understanding what treading lightly truly means...required reading (for all) made delightful." (Thomas E. Lovejoy, President of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment)

"This is, at last, a fresh, comprehensive understanding of soil and its wonderful world of unseen biodiversity. One of the most talented science writers, Yvonne Baskin has presented a clear view of amazing creatures and microbes and their profound influence on the surface world, including our national economies. Under Ground will be both fascinating for laypersons and extremely useful for scientists like myself who understand how critical the soil is but know too little about it."
(Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University and coauthor of "One with Nineveh")

"Baskin takes us on a tour around the globe and beneath the soil surface to describe the unique and fascinating creatures that make their living underground in some of the earth's most interesting habitats...Every one of the eight intriguing chapters will be appreciated by anyone with an interest in the natural world, especially the unseen world right under our feet."  (Northeastern Naturalist)

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