[Advances in Ecological Research] Litter Decomposition: A Guide to Carbon and Nutrient Turnover Volume 38 || Preface

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PrefaceThe idea of this book, which we are able to oVer you now, thanks to Elsevier,was born several years ago when we were working together on review articlessummarizing knowledge on litter decomposition, nutrient dynamics, andhumus buildup in forests of the Northern Hemisphere. After years of study-ing organic matter decomposition, we considered ourselves to have goodinsight into the progress in this branch of ecology/biogeochemistry, and itwas not diYcult to notice that, although intensively studied by a number ofresearch teams all over the world, the subject was not very well representedon the bookshelves. Virtually no single comprehensive book devoted to thissubject had been published for a long time, and, in fact, very few have everbeen published (see the References at the end of this volume). To both ofusteaching ecology as well as more specialized courses in soil ecology andecotoxicologythis situation was not merely unsatisfactory, considering theimportance of decomposition processes for almost every aspect of life onearth, but also very inconvenient for our students who did not have anysource summarizing the state of current research in the discipline.When you lack a proper handbook, you must write one yourself and wedecided to do just that. Although many years have passed from the birth ofthe idea until we could submit the manuscript, not much has changed in thegeneral market. One notable exception is the book coauthored by one of usand published by SpringerVerlag in 2003. However, while that book isdirected toward specialists, the present one has been written mostly withstudents and teachers in mind. We hope that this book will be useful at alllevels of study, from general ecology courses, where decomposition process-es often are covered briefly, through more advanced courses in ecosystemsecology, soil ecology, and biogeochemistry, where at least some deeperaspects of organic matter decay should be covered, ending with courses forgraduate students who decide to take the first step in their research careers inthis topic. While teachers and students in more general subjects will find themost basic information on decomposition processes in this book, we hopethat scientists and graduate students working on decomposition processeswill be satisfied with the more detailed information and the overview of thelatest publications on the topic as well as the methodological chapter wherevi PREFACEpractical information on methods useful in decomposition studies can befound. We hope that university teachers like us will find the book useful inpreparing their courses. In particular, those who do not specialize in decom-position studies should find a wealth of knowledge gathered in one, relativelycompact volume. A useful addition for classes and selfteaching is AppendixII, with real research data and an Internet link that can be used for learningdiVerent statistical techniques mentioned in the book or even for organizingminor research projects without the necessity of spending long years on fieldstudies, which, in most cases, is simply impossible during regular courses.Of course, we do not believe that our book will satisfy the needs ofeveryone. Throughout the book, we have had to find a balance betweencompleteness of the knowledge presented and compactness of particularchapters. We realize that our personal opinion on what is the best tradeoVwas not necessarily optimal in all cases. Therefore, we will be happy to hearyour opinions and suggestions. If the book appears useful, there is thepossibility of publishing an updated version in a few years. Our emailaddresses are given below this Preface: you may be certain that everymessage will be carefully read and thought through.E-mail address:Bjo rn Ber g: BBE@k vl.dk, 07082124 24@ euromai l.seRysz ard Laskows ki: r.lasko wski@ek o.uj.edu.plmailto:BBE@kvl.dkmailto:0708212424@euromail.semailto:r.laskowski@eko.uj.edu.pl