INSECTS AND SUSTAINABILITY OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
Timothy D. Schowalter
In this book about the role of insects as components of the biophysical services of nature that we humans rely on, Dr. Schowalter examines not only the various ecosystem functions provided by insects but also our human perceptions of their respective values. In the context of general human perceptions, it needs to be understood that, since biblical times, most insects that interfere in one way or another with the plants we humans value for our own uses have been considered to have only negative effects on the resource, and so are thought of as “pests.” On the other hand, insects are not considered pests—if they are noticed at all by the lay populous—when they feed on plants for which we find no social or economic value.
The term pest reflects this traditional bias and the perceived necessity of always having to battle insects for control of the resources we humans value as commodities or for the maintenance of our physical health. Only within the past three of decades or so has evidence become sufficiently available to show that many of the so-called “insect pests”—like all other species—enrich the world, and in the process provide largely unrecognized benefits. Dr. Schowalter has been a pioneer and leader in raising the level of consciousness in science, forestry, and agricultural with respect to the beneficial contributions insects make to our overall social-environmental well-being.
As Dr. Schowalter points out in this book, insects are critical pollinators of our food crops and medicinal plants, as well as being essential in their role of breaking down and recycling the nutrient resources in dead plants and animal waste, thereby allowing them to be reused in the ecosystem. In addition, insects are important sources of food in many cultures, as well being the primary food for numerous commercial fisheries and game animals. And, this says nothing of their significance as cultural icons, such as Egyptian scarabs and oriental crickets, or their vital nature as regulatory instruments in ecosystems wherein plant production is nearing the environmental carrying capacity. Finally, some medicinal and industrial products benefit from the existence of certain insects as part of their ingredients—all of which are elucidated within the pages of the book you are holding.
Chris Maser, Series Editor
INSECTS AND SUSTAINABILITY OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES. 2013. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
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Text and Photos © by Chris Maser 2013. All rights reserved.