Ferns are an integral part of the world's flora, appreciated for their beauty as ornamentals, problematic as invaders and endangered by human interference. They often dominate forest understories but also colonize open areas, invade waterways and survive in nutrient-poor wastelands and eroded pastures. Presented here is the first comprehensive summary of fern ecology, with worldwide examples from Siberia to the islands of Hawaii. Topics include a brief history of the ecological study of ferns, a global survey of fern biogeography, fern population dynamics, the role of ferns in ecosystem nutrient cycles, their adaptations to xeric environments and future directions in fern ecology. Fully illustrated concepts and processes provide a framework for future research and utilization of ferns for graduate students and professionals in ecology, conservation and land management.