Book Review — Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

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William M. White (ed) (2018) Encyclopedia of Geochemistry: A Comprehensive Reference Source on the Chemistry of the Earth, 1st ed. Springer International Publishing, 1557 pp, ISBN 978-3-319-39311-7 (Print US$499.99; €414.96); ISBN 978-3-319-39312-4 (ebook US$499.99; €474.81); ISBN 978-3-319-39313-1 (Print + ebook US$599.99; €518.96)

The field of geochemistry has grown rapidly over the past few decades, driven by significant advances in new analytical techniques, theoretical calculations, laboratory experiments, and the development of geochemical databases. This impressive growth has been further accelerated by the urgent needs of almost all the Earth sciences that use geochemistry to find resources, mitigate environmental impacts, and decipher physico-chemical processes in the Earth and the solar system. The massive two-volume Encyclopedia of Geochemistry: A Comprehensive Reference Source on the Chemistry of the Earth, edited by William M. White, is, thus, very timely and highly relevant. It represents a comprehensive update on the 1999 version, which was edited by Clare P. Marshall and Rhodes W. Fairbridge.

The two volumes of the Encyclopedia of Geochemistry summarize the state-of-the-art advances in all the major geochemical topics. These are covered by 331 separate entries written by 308 international experts from 22 different countries. These entries are divided into three broad categories: extensive reviews of a topic; intermediate overviews of a topic; definitions and brief descriptions. Entries can range from 1 to 27 pages. The extensive reviews of fundamental and broad topics include entries such as “Earth’s Continental Crust” (by Roberta L. Rudnick), “Carbonate Minerals and the CO2–Carbonic Acid System” (by Abraham Lerman and Fred T. Mackenzie), and “Ocean Biochemical Cycling and Trace Elements” (by Hein J. W. de Baar, Steven M. A. C. van Heuven and Rob Middag). The intermediate-length overviews of more specific topics include “Subduction Zone Geochemistry” (by Terry Plank), “Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry” (by Maria Schonbachler), and “Paleoclimatology” (by Larry C. Peterson). The brief definitions of important terms include such items as the “Giant Impact Hypothesis” (by Hidenori Genda), the “Large-Ion Lithophile Elements” (by Catherine Chauvel and Roberta L. Rudnick), and “Geoneutrinos” (by William F. McDonough). In this latter category are brief summaries of the behaviors of naturally occurring elements and their isotopes, ranging from the lightest element in “Hydrogen” (by James G. Brophy and Arndt Schimmelmann) and “Hydrogen Isotopes” (by Arndt Schimmelmann and Peter E. Sauer) to the heaviest element in “Uranium” (by Vincent J. M. Salters), and the “Uranium Decay Series” (by Bernard Bourdon). All entries in both volumes are indexed in alphabetical order to provide readers with easy access to the topics.

The Encyclopedia of Geochemistry covers all the major disciplines in geochemistry and conveniently summarizes our current understanding of major geochemical reservoirs, important geological and biological processes, and the behaviors of all the naturally occurring elements and isotopes in the periodic table. Each entry provides an appropriate level of background and history, followed by a brief introduction to the essential concepts, important applications, current knowledge gaps, and areas of controversies. The main text usually ends with a brief summary, detailed bibliography, and cross-references. Although most of the entries are limited in length, they do provide a concise and overarching framework for readers.

The Encyclopedia of Geochemistry is an essential reference source for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, as well as for educators and researchers. The entries provide handy introductory materials for researchers exploring new fields or for those who need to learn about a new topic. The references cited at the end of each entry provide comprehensive reviews and make excellent further reading. Many of the encyclopedia’s entries are also valuable resources for undergraduate geochemistry classes. They make ideal reading materials for students who are interested in more in-depth knowledge. For example, the “Magmatic Process Modelling” entry (by Mark Ghiorso) is well-suited to form complementary material to lectures on trace element geochemistry. The entries also make perfect reading assignments for graduate seminar classes, because they provide sufficient background for students to read more research-based articles. For instance, the “Geochronology and Radiogenic Isotopes” entry (by Jeff Vervoort) succinctly explains the fundamentals of isotope dating methods and paves the way for students to understand the applications of different geochronometers to constrain the timing of all manner of processes.

The Encyclopedia of Geochemistry is a comprehensive and must-have reference source for anyone interested in the geochemistry of planet Earth.

Fang-Zhen Teng
University of Washington (USA)

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