Monday, July 6, 2020

Nonfiction Monday

Biodiversity:Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth with Science Activities for Kids by Laura Perdew with illustrations by Tom Casteel offers an overview of life from the first single-cell organisms through the varied lifeforms that exist today. The text, which is designed for readers in grades four to six, is thoughtfully divided into six chapters that systematically develop each concept.

The book opens with a double-page geologic time scale and a vocabulary list which is followed by an introduction, What Is Biodiversity?, that discusses the basic concepts of ecosystems such as kelp forests.  The biodiversity and interconnection of ecosystems is explored through an up-close examination of a tree both as a specific organism, but also as a diverse ecosystem of birds, animals, insects, fungus and an assortment of microorganisms.
Chapter One, A Short History of Life On Earth, references the geological time table to answer the question, “How has life on earth become so diverse?” The Paleozoic Era saw the rise of early organism like Trilobites and primitive fish. Land plants developed into forests, and environments provided ecosystems for primitive amphibians and reptiles. The Mesozoic Era is known for dinosaurs, the first flowering plants, and the appearance of mammals. The Cenozoic Era is marked by the presence of primates, the diversification of birds, and familiar mammals such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats.
Chapter Two, Biodiversity Everywhere, examines the ways in which environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, and geography determine the distribution of species on land and in water. Why do rainforests, which occupy less than two percent of the earth’s surface, account for fifty percent of earth’s biodiversity? Endemic species, like the Texas blind salamander, are so perfectly adapted to their environment that they don’t exist outside of their specific location. Extremophiles occupy niches from 660° F deep sea hydrothermal vents to the frigid waters beneath two miles of polar ice.
Chapter Three, Why Biodiversity Matters, discusses ways in which ecosystem stability is protected by biodiversity. Pollination, decomposition, and food webs are essential to the health of the planet and dependent on the variety of plants and animals that occupy earth’s many environments.
Chapter Four, Biodiversity And Humans, builds on the previous chapters by demonstrating the many ways in which humans are dependent on and benefit from earth’s biodiversity. The security of our food supply is supported by bees and other pollinators, as well as the many organisms that create healthy soil. Half of our modern medicines are derived from nature’s plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. Recreational opportunities rely on healthy natural environments.
Chapter Five, Threats To Biodiversity, focuses on the ways in which the presence of seven billion humans on earth impact the health of our planet. Climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, habitat loss, poaching, and invasive species pose unique challenges. Pesticides have been found in honey. Every year 9 million tons of plastic go into the ocean.
Chapter Six, Protecting Biodiversity, considers the question “What can we do to protect biodiversity on Earth?” Protection can take many forms, both large and small: conservation, innovation, and implementing laws, treaties, and policies to safe guard the health of our home on the small blue planet called Earth.
Vocabulary is highlighted in Words To Know sidebars.  Related STEM projects are listed to check knowledge and offer hands-on reinforcement for concepts.  Each chapter includes a QR code to enable readers to access primary sources. Readers are challenged to ask questions and use critical thinking skills in response to calls to action: Essential Question, Consider This!,  and Did You Know? Photographs and illustrations enhance content and provide excellent visual interest.

The book is well organized and the content expands on familiar facts and introduces readers to details that are often overlooked. It is not only educational, but is also a pleasure to read. The conversational tone and age-appropriate vocabulary is appealing.
Recommended for STEM home and school libraries.

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