Monograph of soil nematodes from coastal douglas-fir forests in British Columbia
Panesar, Tochi S.
Marshall, Valin G.
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The history of nematodes dates back to ancient times. The intestinal roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, was apparently known to the Chinese about 5,000 years ago. This nematode, and the Guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis, the dreaded nematode parasite of humans, seems to have been mentioned by the Egyptians about 3,500 years ago. Moses’ fiery serpent mentioned in the Bible may also have been the Guinea worm. A few hundred years BCE, Hippocrates and Aristotle mentioned the human pinworm, Enterobius vermicularis, and Aristotle is on record as being the first person to describe nematodes. However, serious study of nematodes began only in the 1850s, with the availability of the light microscope, and primarily among the Europeans. Landmarks in this process included major works from France, Germany and England. North Americans, notably N. A. Cobb in the USA, entered the field some 50 years later. In Canada, serious study of nematodes is even more recent, and was initially of interest primarily to entomologists and other biologists. Work on nematodes accelerated only after the 1940s with the establishment of a Nematology Laboratory in the Canada Department of Agriculture at Ottawa. Essentially all the work in that department was devoted to nematode parasites related to agriculture. Among eminent nematologists at Ottawa were Dr. R. H. Mulvey, Dr. R. V. Anderson and Dr. B. A. Ebsary. Unfortunately, the Ottawa nematology unit now appears to be an “endangered species.” In British Columbia, Dr. J. M. Webster at Simon Fraser University has published extensively on nematodes. Similarly, Dr. R. C. Anderson at the University of Guelph was pre-eminent in the study of nematode parasites of vertebrates. Despite the distinguished history of contributions to nematology in Canada, reference works on free-living nematodes do not exist for any of the Provinces. This Monograph is the first compendium on soil nematodes of British Columbia. It records information on 48 species in 27 families in nine orders of nematodes from coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems in the Province. Although many nematode species are of great economic importance as serious pests of plants and as parasites of animals, most free-living nematodes contribute substantially to nutrient cycling and are therefore vital for sustainable forestry and agriculture. Recent estimates suggest several million nematode species worldwide. With many years of experience in nematology and soil zoology research, the authors have recognized that the lack of taxonomic reference works is greatly hampering ecological studies in many areas of soil fauna research. The majority of these species are undescribed, and most biologists now agree that taxonomy is facing a crisis because of the dwindling number of systematists. The declining number of specialists increases the importance for creating regional faunal inventories. This Monograph is a reasonably comprehensive reference work, and it is hoped that it will be useful for future studies on biodiversity in soil ecosystems, and in using soil nematodes as bioindicators of soil ecological conditions. Tochi S. Panesar Valin G. Marshall Royal Roads University March 2003
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