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The Diversity Of Life Paperback – 1 Jan 1992

4.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Jan 1992
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Product details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: The Belknap Press Of Harvard University Press; 2nd Impression edition (1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674212983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674212985
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 572,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Wilson's is still the best work we are ever likely to have on the tangled, ever-changing relationships that all species on the planet have with one another--and why the preservation of the same biological diversity that sparks our curiosity and enriches our spirit may also be the key to our survival.--T.H. Watkins "Washington Post "

About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is the Pellegrino University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. He is the author of SOCIOBIOLOGY, the two Pulitzer Prize-winning works ON HUMAN NATURE and THE ANTS, and the bestselling CONSILIENCE. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
If you watch nature programmes, Edward O Wilson is one of those intrepid biologists you see fairly frequently, looking serious and concerned, dressed for the jungle and being interviewed about deforestation, biodiversity, ecology and so on. He's one of my favourite "talking heads", along with the likes of David Attenborough. This is the first time I've read one of his books and I found it fascinating. His writing style is not as easy and fluent as some other writers I could mention. The best plain English writer in this general area (well, close enough: evolutionary biology, which is just as potentially technical and complicated) is Richard Dawkins, in my opinion. But Mr Wilson's style gets easier after a couple of chapters as you settle into his flow.
There's a comprehensive Foreword and, at the end there are Notes, a Glossary and an Index. the body of the book is divided into 3 sections:
1) "Violent Nature, Resilient Life" covers the destructive forces of nature such as those that have wiped out vast numbers of species in the past and describes how life clings on and returns to repopulate zones of devastation.
2) "Biodiversity Rising" covers the generation of biodiversity: how and why new species evolve; the time this takes; potential extent of the diversity in various types of habitat.
3) "The Human Impact" covers the ways humans have driven and are driving species to extinction, the speed of destruction, the time it would take to re-establish a high level of biodiversity, the possible consequences of severe reduction in biodiversity for life on earth and humanity in particular, and what can be done to slow down and reverse the impoverishment trend.
The author presents his facts and lays out the case for conservation in a very cool and logical way.
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Format: Paperback
Wilson writes a great overview of biodiversity--how it is created, why it is crucial to human survival, and what we must do to preserve it. Enjoy accessible and well-documented writing that takes you from California to Madagascar, from the present to the beginnings of life as known from the fossil record. Along the way you'll learn many of the crucial ecological and evolutionary concepts (such as natural selection, community ecology, biogeography, and more) necessary for understanding what biodiversity is and how it is maintained. And finally, in the last part of the book, learn about philosophies and practices that will enable each of us to preserve the amazing diversity of life that surrounds us. You'll want to be a biologist by the time you finish the book!
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Format: Paperback
If there's one book that changed my life this is it. The book starts with an almost poetic style. From page one, the author's incredible description of a moonless night in the Amazon jungle transports you there. You are reminded that whilst humans sleep at night, most animals have just begun their activities. Everything we always took for granted is looked at from several different angles throughout the book. Simple facts become beautifully interwound in the web of life. More importantly however, are the simple alternatives and solutions the author presents to our way of life which is rapidly eroding the natural habitat that we depend on for our survival. Books like these should be made compulsory at shcool. Oh, couldn't we substitute those bibles in hotel drawers with this book?
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This is from Chapter 4 of Edward Wilson's book:

"The most wonderful mystery of life may well be the means by which it created so much diversity from so little physical matter. The biosphere, all organisms combined, makes up only about one part in ten billion of the earth's mass. It is sparsely distributed through a kilometre-thick layer of soil, water and air stretched over a half billion square kilometres of surface. If the world were the size of an ordinary desktop globe and its surface were viewed edgewise an arm's length away, no trace of the biosphere could be seen with the naked eye. Yet life has divided into millions of species, the fundamental units, each playing a unique role in relation to the whole."

Wilson divides his ideas, theories and explanations into three main parts: Violent Nature, Resilient Life; Biodiversity Rising; and The Human Impact. In the first section he writes with an almost poetic intensity about the great extinctions that have occurred on the earth since time began. Krakatau (not Krakatoa - which is a westernisation) is an exemplar of how biodiversity can repopulate a devastated plot, an amazing process that is oddly moving to contemplate. Wilson then goes on to talk about the major extinctions - the great eruptions which have occurred repeatedly across long stretches of geological time - and the arguments for one or the other theory of why they happened - meteors or not? The earth appears to have cooled dramatically during the first four crises, eliminating many species and forcing others into smaller areas, rendering them more vulnerable to extinction. He makes the point that a complete recovery from each of the five major extinctions required tens of millions of years.
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