MSU biologist details threats to wetlands, importance of aquatic plants in new textbook

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A new textbook by a Mississippi State University professor of biological sciences highlights the impending encroachment of human activities on wetlands and how aquatic plant life plays an important role in the ecosystem.

Gary N. Ervin
Gary N. Ervin (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Gary N. Ervin’s “The Biology of Aquatic and Wetland Plants,” a 2023 CRC Press publication scheduled for release this spring, offers a deep dive into the importance of aquatic plants in the ecosystem and is aimed at courses in plant biology, physiology and ecology. His text focuses on “botanical diversity from the perspective of evolutionary relationships, emphasizing the role of evolution in shaping adaptations to the aquatic environment.”

“I have a lifelong love for ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands. My connection with these habitats was a strong motivator for me to study wetland plants as a research area as an undergraduate and during graduate school,” Ervin said. “I joined the Society of Wetland Scientists during graduate school and have been involved with that organization over the past 25 years, so wetlands and wetland plants have always been an integral part of my personal and professional life.”

Ervin said it has been more than 20 years since a comprehensive wetland plant textbook has been written, and since the previous text lacked information on certain topics he wanted to emphasize in class, he decided to draft new material.

“I tried to write this book in such a way that people who know little to nothing about wetland plants can learn basic information about why these plants are so important, while also including more in-depth details about their biology for the more advanced reader.”

Ervin used a 2019 sabbatical to begin writing the book and field-tested early versions with students in his Aquatic Botany class in 2020 and with a group of students at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in 2021. The ASU class was taught by a former MSU colleague and postdoctoral scientist in Ervin’s lab.

“For the general reader, the first and last chapters provide a broad overview of why wetland plants are interesting and important in a global context. For example, aquatic plants include the world’s smallest flowering plants, at roughly 1 millimeter in diameter for an entire plant, as well as rice, which feeds approximately half the world’s population,” said Ervin, noting the book’s last chapter will be available for free download from

Ervin has been an MSU faculty member since 2001 and holds a Ph.D. and bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama.

The Department of Biological Sciences is part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. For more details, visit

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