Cover image for A magic web : the forest of Barro Colorado Island
A magic web : the forest of Barro Colorado Island
Ziegler, Christian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 292 pages : color illustrations ; 31 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH108.P3 Z54 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



The tropical forest of Panama's Barro Colorado Island is a luxuriant community of plants and animals, pulsating with life and offering an astonishing view of nature's myriad processes. What does the forest look like? How do the activities of this forest's plants and animals create a community? Now, in A Magic Web, photographer Christian Ziegler and ecologist Egbert Leigh invite readers to enter the marvelous world of Barro Colorado Island. This book provides a unique combination of the spectacular photography of a picture-book and clear, authoritative text written by an activescientist who has spent half a lifetime trying to understand tropical forests. The photographs provide views of the forest and its spectacular diversity of inhabitants, and show many of the activities that give the forest its character and lend structure to its community. Drawing on decades of workon Barro Colorado Island, Egbert Leigh explains how the forest works. The photographs and text reveal the many ways its plants and animals compete with but also depend on each other: the contrasts between solitary cats and intricately organized armies of ants; the different ways plants struggle fora place in the sun, and the ways these plants attract, or domesticate, animals to pollinate their flowers. Finally, the authors show why this, and by implication all other, tropical forests matter to the people who live near them and to the world at large, what we can learn from these forests, andhow they differ from temperate-zone forests. Full of gorgeous full-color photographs accompanied by clear and accessible text, A Magic Web is a must for anyone planning to visit a tropical forest, and for all those who only wish they could.

Author Notes

Giles Leigh, Jr., is a Biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This tour of a lush, forested island in Panama is a mostly successful blend of coffee-table nature book and science narrative on tropical ecology. Photographer Ziegler and ecologist Leigh spent more than a year on Barro Colorado Island trying to capture the essence of what makes the island a priceless jewel, to "lift the green curtain" on the rainforest. Through words and pictures, the interconnectedness of all living things on the island becomes apparent. Wild nutmeg trees depend on toucans for seed dispersal; herbivorous insects keep the leafy biomass under control; bats, in turn, eat the insects. Each species is intimately involved with the next, and Ziegler offers some amazing close-up shots of these evolutionary partnerships in action. But readers eager for an immersive rainforest story to go with the photos will find it only after hunting through results of scientific studies related in textbook fashion. Leigh is at his best when describing the eerie calls of howler monkeys or evoking the light within a green cathedral of trees. Despite the contrast between style and substance, the book contains a wealth of information and images for rainforest enthusiasts. 200 illustrations. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Ziegler's book contains a spectacular set of photographs taken at Barro Colorado Island in Gatun Lake, Panama. The island has been a biological reserve since 1923 and has been the home of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute since 1946. The Smithsonian has led research efforts in the area for nearly a century. Thus, Barro Colorado is not just a well-preserved example of a tropical ecosystem; the biological wealth of the island has been extensively studied and cataloged. Oddly enough, little of this type of information makes it into the book. The text is cursory and comparative examples from other locations seem to be almost randomly selected. Although many studies from both the tropics and around the world are mentioned, few are listed in the final chapter, "Where to Learn More." The book is an excellent choice for individuals who want a set of wonderful photographs of tropical plants and animals but a poor choice for libraries interested in building a scientific collection. Summing Up: General readers. B. D. Orr Michigan Technological University

Table of Contents

Photographer's Prefacep. ix
Author's Prefacep. xi
Introduction: A First Impressionp. 3
1. What Is Special about Tropical Forests?p. 33
The Enormous Variety of Tropical Organismsp. 35
Interdependence: The Many Ways Different Species Depend on One Anotherp. 60
2. The Life of Plantsp. 87
Finding Lightp. 102
Procuring Nutrients and Waterp. 121
Seasonal Rhythms and Odd Yearsp. 137
3. Eating and Being Eatenp. 149
Herbivoryp. 151
Predators!p. 166
4. Animalsp. 195
Why Diversify?p. 197
The Forest at Nightp. 209
Why Live in Groups?p. 225
5. Why Tropical Forests Matterp. 233
How Rain Forests Benefit Rich and Poorp. 235
The Fragmentation and Destruction of Tropical Forestsp. 252
Preserving Tropical Forestsp. 260
Where to Learn Morep. 269
Notes on the Photographyp. 279
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Indexp. 283