This book has been written with the aim of providing an accessible introduction to the many ways in which plants respond to and form the environment of our planet. As an academic scientist, and yet as a teacher, I have tried to balance conflicting needs between something which can be trusted and useful to my colleagues, and something which can enthuse newcomers to the subject. For too long, I feel, Earth system science has been a closed door to students because of its jargon, its mathematics and its emphasis on meticulous but rather tedious explanations of concepts. I hate to think how many good potential scientists we have lost because of all this, and how many students who could have understood how the living Earth worked have gone away bored or baffled. At a time when we may be facing one of the greatest challenges to our well-being in recent history, from global warming, it is essential that we recruit all the good researchers that we can. If we want the public, business people and politicians to understand the problems they are facing, we need to disseminate knowledge of Earth system processes as widely as possibly.

In line with the aims of Praxis—and with my own aims too—1 have not attempted a complete referenced literature review in this book. Instead, selected papers of authors named in the text are listed in a bibliography, to provide the reader with some useful leads into the literature. Many important studies are not directly referenced even if their findings are mentioned in the text, and I hope that authors of these studies will not feel snubbed (because my selection of papers to reference was often fairly arbitrary). The text is written in an informal way, reflecting my own dislike of pomposity in acadcmia. Jargon in scicncc gives precision, but it also takes away understanding if newcomers to the subject arc driven away by it. As part of my balancing act. 1 have tried to keep jargon to a minimum. 1 have also used some homey and traditional categories such as "plants" to apply to all photosynthesizers, bacterial or eukaryotic (I regard being a plant as a lifestyle, not a birthright), and somehow I could not bear to keep throwing the word "archaea" around when I could just call them "bacteria".

Dedicated to the irreverant and brilliant Hugues Faure (1928-2003)

Continue reading here: Figures

Was this article helpful?

0 0