By Ralph O. Brinkhurst
First published in 1974, this book has become a classic in the field.
The book sought to identify hypotheses that had been erected in the past, and to investigate the extent to which they had been adequately tested. The various environmental and methodologic factors that needed to be addressed in attempting future tests of hypotheses were discussed. There was no attempt to present an encyclopedic account of the literature. A very large volume of publications was traced and obtained. This effort was considered to be closed when new documents added little to the accumulated pattern of ideas, but even so, over 400 titles appear in the references. The volume should therefore continue to be of value as a source of ideas for benthic biologists, and teachers and students of limnology.
The historic survey of the literature provided remains as useful to future students as it did then. The reason why so many projects to this day begin with sampling along a transect from the shore to a deep spot or the lake center is that early benthic biologists were puzzled as to how organisms could have been adapted to these somewhat transient freshwater bodies (in contrast to the oceans). This approach makes very little sense for many purposes, as it maximizes all of the sediment and water column variables in the system. Questions such as this, and the need to select an appropriate piece of sampling gear, rather than using what lies on the supply room floor, still need to be addressed.
In a new foreword, Dr. Brinkhurst identifies new themes and progress made since the original work was presented 25 years ago. Many of the current workers in the field were asked to assist in this brief update. Much of this work is in the applied realm, which has expanded considerably as our awareness of environmental problems have increased. The pressing issue of the effects of the introduction of exotic species and their disruptive effect on ecosystems, to give but one example, is referenced. The author sees a linkage between the much disparaged Lake Typology studies of early limnology and recent attempts to trace progressive eutrophication, meaning that current researchers ignore their roots at their peril.
Community studies and production work are covered, and updated in the foreword. The great improvement in taxonomic guides to major faunal elements, such as dipteran larvae and oligochaete worms, should enable current workers to bring greater focus to benthic ecology, as well as to benefit from the arguments in the Discussion and Conclusions section of the work. The pleas for hypothesis-making before undertaking field work, and the avoidance of quick and dirty "silver bullet" applied methods that are not cost effective unfortunately, are as needed today as they were years ago. Preferred alternative methods developed in Canada, Europe and Australia are reviewed. Reference to an extensive survey of methods of data acquisition and analysis published more recently is relevant even though based on marine biologic studies that occupied the author's later work. While the faunal elements differ, research on soft bottom communities, emphasized in this work, has much in common in freshwater and the oceans apart from the scale of equipment and platforms in most instances.
This book still remains the only comprehensive review of the field on a
"The renewed availability of The Benthos of Lakes is most welcome. Relatively few books have been published which present an ecosystem approach to the dynamics of benthic habitats and communities. Dr. Brinkhurst is well qualified to deal with the complexities of benthic ecology because he has published extensively on benthic communities in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, especially on pollution and production biology, as well as taxonomic studies of freshwater and marine oligochaetes."
Alfred M. Beeton, former Acting Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Chair of the Science Advisory Board of NOAA. Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
Dr. Ralph Brinkhurst received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of London, specializing in zoology and entomology. In 1972, he obtained his D.Sc. for studies on aquatic oligochaetes. Dr. Brinkhurst taught at the University of Liverpool and Toronto University before joining the Public Service of Canada, first as Director of the St. Andrew's (New Brunswick) laboratory, and then as head and founder of the Ocean Ecology Laboratory at the Institute of Ocean Sciences (British Columbia). He later initiated a consulting laboratory, Aquatic Resources Center, near Nashville, TN. His primary experience in lake studies was with the British Lake District lakes and
the Shropshire/Cheshire Meres, and the St. Lawrence Great Lakes. His work on oligochaetes involved the faunas of such important lakes as Baikal and Titicaca. In marine benthos, he pioneered work on the Canadian fjords and worked in submersibles, including a dive on hydrothermal vents. He has always been interested in the connection between academic and applied research, and the improvement of methodology in benthic sampling. He has been associated with many freshwater, marine, lobbying and taxonomic programs, including SEP at Woods Hole, Pollution Probe in Toronto, The Royal Ontario Museum, and as an adjunct Professor at a number of Universities. Dr. Brinkhurst has
authored over 200 papers and several books. He has collaborated in the production of identification manuals for oligochaetes worldwide. He has now retired to Lebanon, TN, where he is an avid bird watcher.