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, an ecological "balance of nature" that should not to 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 singlular event, What is Natural lucidly illustrates the complexity of environmental issues while probing the most fundamental questions about the relationship between man and nature.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 294
Weight: 590 g
Dimensions: 244 x 161 x 27 mm
'...The tale of the crown-of-thorns appears in his meticulously reserached blow-by-blow account of his quest in What Is Natural? The result? The best science whodunnit I have ever read...This fascinating book includes thumbnail sketches of a couple of generations of marine scientists, and a wonderful, detailed account of the environmental movement's growing pains...Apart from being a damned good read, What Is Natural? is a poignant history of
humanity's most troubled times.' * David Bellamy, New Scientist, 3 July 1999 *
'...contents of this book are well organized and extremely well researched...Like a good detective novel it keeps you moving from one page to the next as it explores the interactions of those involved in resolving the problem-in one way or the other.' Journal of Experimental Marine Ecology