“Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Environments” has been accepted for publication by Nova Science Publishers, an academic publisher of books, encyclopedias, handbooks, e-books and journals based in Hauppauge, N.Y.

In the work, Rajakaruna describes how harsh environments found around the world harbor unique organisms adapted to extreme ranges in climatic and other environmental variables. “Whether they occur in extreme climates, in habitats frequently disturbed by fire or floods, or elsewhere, adaptations demonstrated by organisms found in such environments shed light on basic and applied aspects of ecology and evolution,” he said.

“Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Environments” brings together current research on plants, fungi and microbes from harsh environments to reveal underlying patterns and common themes of these especially challenging habitats — from alpine and arctic settings to fire-prone Mediterranean climates, serpentine outcrops, gypsum soils, metal-rich mine tailings and saline soils.

Rajakaruna has become recognized as an expert in serpentine soils, which are derived from rocks formed by the hydration and metamorphic transformation of rock from the Earth’s mantle. Soils derived from such rock give rise to unusual and sparse associations of plants that are tolerant of extreme soil conditions. Such plants have attracted interest for their potential to help ameliorate polluted environments.

In June, Rajakaruna gave the invited keynote address during the 8th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology in Sabah, Malaysia. He will serve as editor of those proceedings, to be published by the Australian Journal of Botany.

He also is preparing for two international academic trips: Rajakaruna will conduct geo-ecological research at the School of Biological Sciences at the North-West University — one of the largest universities in South Africa — and present two talks on serpentine ecology. He also has been invited to teach seminars at the Institute of Natural Sciences of the Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg, Russia, Oct. 16-25.

Rajakaruna ’94, a native of Sri Lanka, studied botany in the Sinharaja Rainforest while at COA and also did work for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute as a field coordinator. In 1995, he joined the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia and received a M.Sc (1998) and a Ph.D. (2002).

In addition to “Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Environments” from Nova Science Publishers, Rajakaruna also recently had an article — “Geoecology,” approved by Oxford University Press for publication in its upcoming “Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology” — and awaits two co-publications with students in upcoming editions of “Rhodora,” the journal of the  New England Botanical Club.