Master your Minecraft

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Best Books of the Year | December 8, 2014

    Tracey T.: IMG Best Cookbooks of 2014

    As the cookbook buyer for Powell's Books, I am the lucky one who gets to choose every new cookbook that comes into our stores. This means I have a... Continue »

Qualifying orders ship free.
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Available for In-store Pickup
in 7 to 12 days
Qty Store Section
25 Remote Warehouse Environmental Studies- Environment

This title in other editions

What Is Natural?: Coral Reef Crisis


What Is Natural?: Coral Reef Crisis Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

During the late 1960s and 1970s, massive herds of poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish suddenly began to infest coral reef communities around the world, leaving in their wake devastation comparable to a burnt-out rainforest. In What is Natural?, Jan Sapp both examines this ecological catastrophe and captures the intense debate among scientists about what caused the crisis, and how it should be handled.

The crown-of-thorns story takes readers on tropical expeditions around the world, and into both marine laboratories and government committees, where scientists rigorously search for answers to the many profound questions surrounding this event. Were these fierce starfish outbreaks the kind of manmade disaster heralded by such environmentalists as Rachel Carson in Silent Spring? Indeed, discussions of the cause of the starfish plagues have involved virtually every environmental issue of our time--over-fishing, pesticide use, atomic testing, rain forest depletion, and over-population--but many marine biologists maintain that the epidemic is a natural feature of coral-reef life, and ecological "balance of nature" that should not be tampered with until we know the scientific truth of the crisis. But should we search for the scientific truth before taking action? And what if an environmental emergency cannot wait for a rigorous scientific search for "the truth"?

The starfish plagues are arguably one of most mysterious ecological phenomena of this century. Through the window of this singular event, What is Natural lucidly illustrates the complexity of environmental issues while probing the most fundamental questions about the relationship between man and nature.


This detailed account of the ongoing destruction of coral reef communities crystallizes one of sciences most profound questions--is there a balance of nature? 13 illustrations.

About the Author

Jan Sapp is a Professor of the History of Science in the Department of Biology, at York University, in Toronto, Canada. He has written two other books for Oxford: Evolution by Assciation (1994) and Beyond the Gene (1987).

Table of Contents



1. Green Island

2. Guam, 1968-1969

3. The War of the Worlds

4. Under Capricorn

5. Crown-of-thorns Inquisition

6. A Tree Fell in the Forest ...

7. Knowledge and Action

8. Oceans Apart

9. Remote Control

10. Complexity and Stability

11. Cyclical Outcries

12. Crossroads

13. Coral Bleaching and Global Warming

14. Cassandra and the Seastar



Product Details

Sapp, Jan
Oxford University Press, USA
null, Jan
Marine Life
Life Sciences - Ecology
Life Sciences | Ecology | Conservation Biology
Environmental Conservation & Protection - General
Oceans & Seas
Ecosystems & Habitats - Oceans & Seas
Environmental Studies-Environment
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
12 halftones, 1 linecut
9.98x5.40x.80 in. .96 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. 101 Facts about Rivers (101 Facts... New Library Bound $30.25
  2. The sign of the seahorse :a tale of...
    Used Hardcover $8.50
  3. The Encyclopedia of Sharks Used Trade Paper $5.98
  4. Listening to Whales: What the Orcas... Used Hardcover $9.95
  5. Bad Religion: The Psychology of... New Trade Paper $29.75
  6. The Octopus and the Orangutan: New...
    Used Trade Paper $7.50

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Ocean and Marine Biology
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » General

What Is Natural?: Coral Reef Crisis New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$34.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195161786 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This detailed account of the ongoing destruction of coral reef communities crystallizes one of sciences most profound questions--is there a balance of nature? 13 illustrations.
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at