New Book – Third Edition of Fundamentals of Soil Ecology


In the mid-1990s, after initiating a new graduate-level course at University of Georgia’s Institute of Ecology (now the Odum School of Ecology), Dave Coleman and Dac Crossley realized a need for a text book to support the information they were presenting in lectures and labs. These two drew upon their vast personal experience in soil ecological research, as well as from their deep knowledge of the literature in the various disciplines that touch soil ecology to produce the first edition of Fundamentals of Soil Ecology in 1996. The popularity of that first edition, and its adoption as a text for soil ecology courses around the world, demanded that an expanded second edition should be produced in 2004, with the addition of UGA colleague, Paul Hendrix, to the writing team.

The early 2000s saw the three authors of Fundamentals “retire” from their posts at the Odum School, but after 12 years since the publication of the 2nd Edition, there was interest from the Publisher (Academic Press, an imprint of Elsevier) in yet another revised edition. This time around, Coleman and Crossley recruited Mac Callaham (USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station) to participate in the updating and expansion of the text. The 3rd Edition of Fundamentals of Soil Ecology appeared in early 2018.

The latest edition includes fully updated synthesis of current research in soil ecology including: studies of root production and root-associated biota, microbial ecology, and decomposition, soil organic matter formation, and soil food web processes. Much of the new material covered in these disciplines will update the reader on the results of studies seeking to understand the potential impacts of global change phenomena – an area of tremendous research activity in the past decade. As ever, the 3rd Edition maintains a strong focus on soil fauna, the biodiversity of soil organisms, and their influences on soil ecological processes. This includes presentation and discussion of our current understanding of taxonomic and systematic relationships among soil organisms, revealed through advances in molecular techniques in recent years. Further updates to the “Soil Fauna” chapter include dozens of brilliant full-color photographs of the animals in their natural habitats. Also of interest to lecturers and instructors of soil-related courses will be the greatly expanded final chapter, “Laboratory and Field Exercises in Soil Ecology,” which covers the full range of hands-on activities for students, new to the study of soil ecology.

Photo Credit Beth Gavrilles of the Odum School of Ecology, UGA

Photo Credit Beth Gavrilles of the Odum School of Ecology, UGA

The three editions of Fundamentals of Soil Ecology trace the (now generational) development of the discipline from its early days to the present, where there are now thousands (tens of thousands?) of individuals around the globe documenting the biodiversity, biogeochemistry, interactions, and general behavior of soil ecological systems. We are currently in an exponential growth phase in the number of published studies that deal with soil ecological issues, and this is an exciting time to be a soil ecologist. In light of the sheer volume of information currently being produced, Coleman et al. may need to begin work now on the 4th Edition!