Breathtaking in scope, this is the first survey of the entire ecological history of life on land--from the earliest traces of terrestrial organisms over 400 million years ago to the beginning of human agriculture. By providing myriad insights into the unique ecological information contained in the fossil record, it establishes a new and ambitious basis for the study of evolutionary paleoecology of land ecosystems. A joint undertaking of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Consortium at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and twenty-six additional researchers, this book begins with four chapters that lay out the theoretical background and methodology of the science of evolutionary paleoecology. Included are a comprehensive review of the taphonomy and paleoenvironmental settings of fossil deposits as well as guidelines for developing ecological characterizations of extinct organisms and the communities in which they lived. The remaining three chapters treat the history of terrestrial ecosystems through geological time, emphasizing how ecological interactions have changed, the rate and tempo of ecosystem change, the role of exogenous "forcing factors" in generating ecological change, and the effect of ecological factors on the evolution of biological diversity. The six principal authors of this volume are all associated with the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems program at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.