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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INTEGRATED INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL, REVEGETATION, AND ASSESSMENT OF GREAT BASIN RANGELANDS Title: Seedlings Finally Get Their Due: Book Review of Seedling Ecology and Evolution

Author
item DE Queiroz, Tara

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 21, 2009
Publication Date: December 15, 2009
Citation: Forbis, T.A. 2009. Seedlings Finally Get Their Due. Bioscience.59(11):1003-1005.

Interpretive Summary: Book Review of: Seedling Ecology and Evolution. Ed. Leck, Mary Allessio, Parker, V. Thomas and Simpson, Robert L. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2008. Many plant demographers find themselves, at some point, staring at a dataset full of detailed information on juvenile and adult plants, and even seeds, but lacking any meaningful information on the seedling stage. Adult plants are usually easily located and either marked for field study or collected for lab study. Even seeds, mysterious little black boxes in their own right, can be collected and brought into the lab and made to jump through experimental hoops. But seedlings lack the attributes that make other life history stages relatively easy to study – in many systems, seedlings are episodic and ephemeral, difficult to find, and tricky to identify. For these reasons, seedlings have been understudied by most subspecialties of plant science. ‘Seedling Ecology and Evolution’ was co-edited by Mary Allessio Leck, V. Thomas Parker, and Robert L. Simpson. The editors identified and recruited expert contributors across many fields of plant science. These authors address topics grouped into four primary sections: Seedling diversity; Seedling morphology, evolution and physiology; Life history implications; and Applications. The content of this book is extremely diverse, and will be of use to specialists ranging from ecophysiologists to paleobotanists. The book also brings to light questions that are unresolved and brings us up to date on current thinking. Of particular interest for those of us who do applied work is the last section on applications of our knowledge about seedling biology. After reading many of the chapters, I found myself coming away with a sense of how little we do know about seedlings. In many cases, the lack of a conclusive answer to the question addressed by a particular chapter is attributable to the difficulty of identifying generalizations in ecology. The editors recognize and acknowledge the lack of identifiable generalities about seedlings in the summary chapter, stating “there is no typical seedling.” However, this volume does an amazing job of amassing and synthesizing, for the first time, our knowledge of the lives of seedlings and provides a great jumping off point. I hope that it will stimulate further research and that it will be updated in the future as our knowledge of the most precarious stage of plants’ life history increases.

Technical Abstract: Book Review of: Seedling Ecology and Evolution. Ed. Leck, Mary Allessio, Parker, V. Thomas and Simpson, Robert L. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2008. Many plant demographers find themselves, at some point, staring at a dataset full of detailed information on juvenile and adult plants, and even seeds, but lacking any meaningful information on the seedling stage. Adult plants are usually easily located and either marked for field study or collected for lab study. Even seeds, mysterious little black boxes in their own right, can be collected and brought into the lab and made to jump through experimental hoops. But seedlings lack the attributes that make other life history stages relatively easy to study – in many systems, seedlings are episodic and ephemeral, difficult to find, and tricky to identify. For these reasons, seedlings have been understudied by most subspecialties of plant science. ‘Seedling Ecology and Evolution’ was co-edited by Mary Allessio Leck, V. Thomas Parker, and Robert L. Simpson. The editors identified and recruited expert contributors across many fields of plant science. These authors address topics grouped into four primary sections: Seedling diversity; Seedling morphology, evolution and physiology; Life history implications; and Applications. The content of this book is extremely diverse, and will be of use to specialists ranging from ecophysiologists to paleobotanists. The book also brings to light questions that are unresolved and brings us up to date on current thinking. Of particular interest for those of us who do applied work is the last section on applications of our knowledge about seedling biology. After reading many of the chapters, I found myself coming away with a sense of how little we do know about seedlings. In many cases, the lack of a conclusive answer to the question addressed by a particular chapter is attributable to the difficulty of identifying generalizations in ecology. The editors recognize and acknowledge the lack of identifiable generalities about seedlings in the summary chapter, stating “there is no typical seedling.” However, this volume does an amazing job of amassing and synthesizing, for the first time, our knowledge of the lives of seedlings and provides a great jumping off point. I hope that it will stimulate further research and that it will be updated in the future as our knowledge of the most precarious stage of plants’ life history increases.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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