Human Adaptability

An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology

Emilio F. Moran

Third Edition • December 25, 2007 • 496 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813343679 • $49.00 USD$62.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786732531 • $33.99 USD$39.99 CAN

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Student Economy Edition available.

Designed to help students understand the multiple levels at which human populations respond to their surroundings, this essential text offers the most complete discussion of environmental, physiological, behavioral, and cultural adaptive strategies available. Among the unique features that make Human Adaptability outstanding as both a textbook for students and a reference book for professionals are a complete discussion of the development of ecological anthropology and relevant research methods; the use of an ecosystem approach with emphasis on arctic, high altitude, arid land, grassland, tropical rain forest, and urban environments; an extensive and updated bibliography on ecological anthropology; and a comprehensive glossary of technical terms.

Entirely new to the third edition are chapters on urban sustainability and methods of spatial analysis, with enhanced emphasis throughout on the role of gender in human-adaptability research and on global environmental change as it affects particular ecosystems. In addition, new sections in each chapter guide students to websites that provide access to relevant material, complement the text’s coverage of biomes, and suggest ways to become active in environmental issues.

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Emilio F. Moran is Distinguished Professor and James H. Rudy Professor of anthropology, professor of environmental sciences and adjunct professor of geography, Director of the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change, and Codirector of the Center for the Study of Institutions, Populations, and Environmental Change at Indiana University.

List of Illustrations
Preface to the Third Edition
List of Acronyms

History, Theory, and Method

1 People in Ecosystems
Human Adaptability as a Response to Constraints
Ecosystems and Global Change
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

2 Theories of Human-Habitat Interaction
Environmental Determinism
Cultural Determinism: Nature as a Limiting Factor
Human Adaptation to Environment
Cultural Ecology: Comparison in Human-Environment Research
Applications of the Cultural Ecological Method
Ecological Anthropology
Ethnoecological and Cognitive Approaches
Historical Ecology
Political Ecology
Political Economy and Human Adaptability
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

3 Fundamental Concepts and Methods
Ecosystem Relationships
Soils and Plant Productivity
Physiological Responses
Sociocultural Regulatory Adjustments
Information and Decisions: Toward Actor-Based Approaches
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

4 Environmental Change and Spatial Analysis
The Challenge of Scale and Levels of Analysis
Human Adaptability to Global Environmental Change
The Use of Remote Sensing and GIS in the Social Sciences
Experimental Approaches in the Social Sciences
Spatial Analysis and the Study of Institutions
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites


5 Human Adaptability to Arctic Zones
The Arctic Ecosystem
Adaptation to Cold Stress
Coping with Snow and Sea Ice
Adaptation to Prolonged Light and Darkness
Coping with Low Biological Productivity
Change in the Arctic
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

6 Human Adaptability to High Altitudes
Mountain Ecosystems
Adaptation to Hypoxia
Adaptability to Cold Stress in the Andes
Aridity and Low Productivity
Climate Change and High Altitude Ecosystems
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

7 Human Adaptability to Arid Lands
Desert Ecosystems
Adjustments to Dry Heat
Utilization of Resources
Change in Desert Ecosystems
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

8 Human Adaptability to Grasslands
Grasslands Ecosystems
Herd Management
Relations with Cultivators
Adaptive Strategies in the Northern Plains
Global Change and the Future of Grasslands and Pastoralism
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites

9 Human Adaptability to the Humid Tropics
Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystems
Coping with Ecosystem Complexity
Adaptability to Humid Heat
Global Change Processes and Alternatives to Deforestation
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites


10 Urban Ecology and Urban Sustainability
The History of Cities
The Ecology of Cities
Spatial Aspects of the City: Compact Versus Sprawl Patterns
Reducing Dependence on the Automobile
Cities and the Upcoming Water Crisis
An Integrative View of the Urban Ecosystem
The Urban LTERs
Final Remarks
Suggested Readings and Useful Websites


“Moran draws on his extensive knowledge of several disciplines and his wide-ranging field experience to offer a clear, engaging, and accessible account of human interactions with natural ecosystems. He provides an understanding of human adaptability that will be of interest to students, to professionals, and to the broad reading public that is concerned with human adaptation to global environmental change.”
Benjamin S. Orlove, Editor, Current Anthropology; Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis

“Rich in information…Eminently suitable as a text for courses in human ecology from either the biological or anthropological viewpoint.”

“Solid scholarship…A well-written book that should be read by anyone with interests in this diverse field, students and professionals alike.”
Annals of Human Biology

“One of the clearest statements to date of the systems approach in ecological anthropology…Superb.”
Reviews in Anthropology

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