Our goal in writing this book was to describe why weeds occur where they do. We have made no attempt to discuss their management and control: there are excellent texts available for that. Rather, we think that students should understand how and why weeds fit into their environment. This text presents ecological principles as they relate to weeds. Ecology is central to our understanding of how and why weeds invade and yet there are few books that make this connection. That is the niche we hope to fill.
We make no excuses for using the word 'weed', and, since humans decide what species are considered to be a weed, we make no attempt at a detailed definition. We could really have used the word 'plant' throughout the text. We have tried to present a broad array of weed examples, and have therefore selected weed examples from different types of systems - agricultural, managed (e.g. forestry) and natural systems - and from around the world.
The book was designed as a teaching text for a middle year undergraduate course. No ecological background is assumed, although some basic biology is required. We have tried to write it and arrange the material so that it is presented in a clear concise manner. At the beginning of each chapter, we have listed concepts that will be addressed, as an overview of what is to come, and to assist the reader when reviewing the material. At the end of each chapter there is a list of questions, the first of which refers to a weed of your (the student's) choice. It can be a common widespread weed, or it may be a local problem. You will be asked to summarize information that is known about your weed in relation to the material discussed in each chapter. There may be a lot or very little information available to you. The idea behind this is to apply the ecological principles you learn in the chapter to a weed of interest, and to give you practice in researching a topic. Our hope is that by the end of the book, you will have created a 'case history' of your chosen weed.
For the instructor, we designed this book so that the material could be covered in a single-term course by covering approximately one 'content chapter' per week. Chapters 1 and 15 are a brief introduction and conclusion. Two chapters (10 and 14) discuss how ecology 'is done', i.e. methodology, experimental design and basic calculations. These can be used as you see fit. We have tried to keep the writing precise and concise and to include only pertinent information. If we have done our job well, students should be able to read and understand all of the information.
We have used common names throughout the text with Latin names given the first time the species is mentioned in each chapter. We did this because common names are easier to remember when first learning about a species. A species list of common and Latin names is provided at the end of the book.
We thank many people who assisted in the writing and production of this book. David Clements and Jason Cathcart provided detailed comments on many versions of the text. Cheryl Corbett, Sara Mohr and Sheryl
Lonsbary read sections or chapters. Of course we accept the responsibility for any errors that occur. We also thank the authors and publishers who allowed us to use their illustrations and Tim Hardwick of CAB International who kept us on in spite of many missed deadlines.
Finally, we thank our spouses, David Beattie, Tara Murphy and Josee Lapierre, who probably heard more about 'the book' than they wanted, but kept smiling and nodding their heads anyway. We dedicate this book to them.
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