In brief

26th April 1996 at 01:00
YOUNG OXFORD BOOKS: ECOLOGY. By Michael Scott. Oxford University Press, Pounds 12.99, Age range 11 plus

Ecology is possibly one of the most overworked and misunderstood words in common use. Too often, books in this field have a numbing predictability - splendid pictures with a tired text rehearsing familiar episodes and admonitions.

Michael Scott's book is like a breath of fresh air. Its substantial dimensions give him scope to explain things thoroughly and illustrate them ingeniously. Eschewing sentiment, sensationalism and the patronising jokiness that often comes with key stage 3 books, the text is clear and straightforward. The first section deals with key concepts - interdependence, succession, symbiosis, adaptation - and processes such as photosynthesis, supported by a wealth of effective case studies.

The book then moves from system to area, with a section on the major world environments. This sensible sequence enables the concepts and mechanisms presented in part one to be seen operating in different ecological contexts. A final shorter section, starkly entitled "Threats to Life" elegantly sets out how an ecological perspective must inform our thinking about the contemporary world. The lavish illustrations are not merely decorative, they earn their keep as part of the argument. A glossary and detailed index further enhance the book's value.

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