Magill's Encyclopedia of Science: Plant Life is designed to meet the needs of college and high school students as well as nonspecialists seeking general information about botany and related sciences. The definition of "plant life" is quite broad, covering the range from molecular to macro topics: the basics of cell structure and function, genetic and photosyn-thetic processes, evolution, systematics and classification, ecology and environmental issues, and those forms of life—archaea, bacteria, algae, and fungi—that, in addition to plants, are traditionally studied in introductory botany courses. A number of practical and issue-oriented topics are covered as well, from agricultural, economic, medicinal, and cultural uses of plants to biomes, plant-related environmental issues, and the flora of major regions of the world. (Readers should note that, although cultural and medicinal uses of plants are occasionally addressed, this encyclopedia is intended for broad information and educational purposes. Those interested in the use of plants to achieve nutritive or medicinal benefits should consult a physician.)
Altogether, the four volumes of Plant Life survey 379 topics, alphabetically arranged from Acid precipitation to Zygomycetes. For this publication, 196 essays have been newly acquired, and 183 essays are previously published essays whose contents were reviewed and deemed important to include as core topics. The latter group originally appeared in the following Salem publications: Magill's Survey of Science: Life Science (1991), Magill's Survey of Science: Life Science, Supplement (1998), Natural Resources (1998), Encyclopedia of Genetics (1999), Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues (2000), World Geography (2001), and Earth Science (2001). All of these previously published essays have been thoroughly scrutinized and updated by the set's editors. In addition to updating the text, the editors have added new bibliographies at the ends of all articles.
New appendices, providing essential research tools for students, have been acquired as well:
• a "Biographical List of Botanists" with brief descriptions of the contributions of 134 famous naturalists, botanists, and other plant scientists
• a Plant Classification table
• a Plant Names appendix, alphabetized by common name with scientific equivalents
• another Plant Names appendix, alphabetized by scientific name with common equivalents
• a "Time Line" of advancements in plant science (a discursive textual history is also provided in the encyclopedia-proper)
• a Bibliography, organized by category of research
• a list of authoritative Web sites with their sponsors, URLs, and descriptions
Every essay is signed by the botanist, biologist, or other expert who wrote it; where essays have been revised or updated, the name of the updater appears as well. In the tradition of Magill reference, each essay is offered in a standard format that allows readers to predict the location of core information and to skim for topics of interest: The title of each article lists the topic as it is most likely to be looked up by students; the "Category" line indicates pertinent scientific subdiscipline(s) or area(s) of research; and a capsule "Definition" of the topic follows. Numerous subheads guide the reader through the text; moreover, key concepts are italicized throughout. These features are designed to help students navigate the text and identify passages of interest in context. At the end of each essay is an annotated list of "Sources for Further Study": print resources, accessible through most libraries, for additional information. (Web sites are reserved for their own appendix at the end of volume 4.) A "See also" section closes every essay and refers readers to related essays in the set, thereby linking topics that, together, form a larger picture. For example, since all components of the plant cell are covered in detail in separate entries (from the Cell wall through Vacuoles), the "See also" sections for these dozen or so essays list all other essays covering parts of the cell as well as any other topics of interest.
Approximately 150 charts, sidebars, maps, tables, diagrams, graphs, and labeled line drawings offer the essential visual content so important to students of the sciences, illustrating such core concepts as the parts of a plant cell, the replication of DNA, the phases of mitosis and meiosis, the world's most important crops by region, the parts of a flower, major types of inflorescence, or different classifications of fruits and their characteristics. In addition, nearly 200 black-and-white photographs appear throughout the text and are captioned to offer examples of the important phyla of plants, parts of plants, biomes of plants, and processes of plants: from bromeliads to horsetails to wheat; from Arctic tundra to rain forests; from anthers to stems to roots; from carnivorous plants to tropisms.
Reference aids are carefully designed to allow easy access to the information in a variety of modes: The front matter to each of the four volumes in cludes the volume's contents, followed by a full "Alphabetical List of Contents" (of all the volumes). All four volumes include a "List of Illustrations, Charts, and Tables," alphabetized by key term, to allow readers to locate pages with (for example) a picture of the apparatus used in the Miller-Urey Experiment, a chart demonstrating the genetic offspring of Mendel's Pea Plants, a map showing the world's major zones of Desertification, a cross-section of Flower Parts, or a sampling of the many types of Leaf Margins. At the end of volume 4 is a "Categorized Index" of the essays, organized by scientific subdiscipline; a "Biographical Index," which provides both a list of famous personages and access to discussions in which they figure prominently; and a comprehensive "Subject Index" including not only the personages but also the core concepts, topics, and terms discussed throughout these volumes.
Reference works such as Magill's Encyclopedia of Science: Plant Life would not be possible without the help of experts in botany, ecology, environmental, cellular, biological, and other life sciences; the names of these individuals, along with their academic affiliations, appear in the front matter to volume 1. We are particularly grateful to the project's editor, Bryan Ness, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California. Dr. Ness was tireless in helping to ensure thorough, accurate, and up-to-date coverage of the content, which reflects the most current scientific knowledge. He guided the use of commonly accepted terminology when describing plant life processes, helping to make Magill's Encyclopedia of Science: Plant Life easy for readers to use for reference to complement the standard biology texts.
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