Short Reviews


B.I. Roots, D.A. Chant & C. Heidenreich (eds) (1999). Special Places: the changing ecosystems of the Toronto region. Pp. x + 342. UBC Press, Vancouver, Canada. ISBN 9-780774-807357. Price $49.95 (hardback).

Ecological education must commence its work in the cities, where many of the people most in need of such education reside. Books about the habitats that lie within easy reach of city dwellers, the wildlife on their doorsteps, and interpretative guides to what they see in the geology and the vegetation that surrounds them, are a first step in this educational process. Here, the city of Toronto, Canada, is displayed in its natural setting, its geology, climate and topography. The history of settlement, from the Iroquois settlements to the current urban developments, are described, as are the major biological groups of the area—encompassing vascular plants, bryophytes, fungi, invertebrates, fish, mammals and birds. These are not exhaustive systematic lists, but outline guides to the more interesting flora and fauna. Then there are guides to special sites in the vicinity of Toronto that should encourage visits and explain features of interest. In true Canadian pioneering spirit, the editors and contributors open up a new route to the ecological inspiration of urban dwellers.

Hofgaard, J.P. Ball, K. Danell & T.V. Callaghan (eds) (1999) Animal Responses to Global Change in the North. Pp. 187. Ecological Bulletins, Lund, Sweden. ISBN 0346-6868. Price not supplied (hardback).

Although this collection of papers, as its title indicates, is concerned largely with the impact of climate change on animal populations in the high latitudes, there are several contributions that will be of interest to a wider audience. The history of mammals in Sweden during the Holocene, for example, shows a shift from grazers to browsers; latitudinal gradients in breeding birds and in sawflies do not seem to follow the usual trends, a peak being associated with habitat diversity in the northern peatlands. North American work is reported on defoliation of northern trees, showing that raised carbon dioxide enhances their growth and recovery. Warmer winters in Europe, however, could increase the frequency of defoliation by enhancing the winter survival of sawfly defoliators. Good news for northern pine trees comes in the form of better chances of recruitment in the coming decades of warmth, but survival will depend on the control of browsing by moose populations.

J.E. Winston (2000) Describing Species: practical taxonomic procedure for biologists. Pp. xx + 518. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-06825-5. Price $35 (paperback).

The growing science of biodiversity allows none of us to forget that millions of species are still out there undescribed. But it is also likely that if any of us ecologists happened to stumble upon one of these we should be unsure of the appropriate procedure. Here we find the full protocol laid out in detail and simplicity, from what comprises good form in the choice of a name, through to the information we will need for publication of the description. A short chapter on keys and their construction may also prove useful, if only as a guide to the currently available computer software.

C.E. Bock & J.H. Bock (2000) The View from Bald Hill: thirty years in an Arizona grassland. Pp. xxiv + 197. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0–520–22184. Price £10.50 (paperback).

Four hundred and sixty years ago the first domestic livestock were introduced to the grasslands of the American South-west, and an inevitable course of change was set in motion. Sadly, there are no detailed records of the alterations that have resulted from the introduction of grazing, but since 1968 an experimental area has been taken out of grazing management in southern Arizona and allowed to develop along its new course. An informal and readable account of the last 30 years of this experiment is recorded in this book. Increased grass cover is the most obvious consequence of grazing removal—an effect clearly evident in the satellite photographs of the region. Fire management has proved a difficult issue. Natural wildfires occur, but general fire control regulations in the area have demanded that they be extinguished. Fires are likely to have been more frequent in the original grasslands. Although the text of the book is written in an informal style, full references to published scientific data are given in an appendix, which provides ready access to more detailed results.

M.J. Mac, P.A. Opler, C.E.P. Haecker & P.D. Doran (1998) Status and Trends of the Nation's Biological Resources. 2 volumes. Pp. xi + 961. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston Va, USA. ISBN 016053285X Price not supplied (paperback).

Reliable surveys of habitats, communities and populations must underlie all sound conservation effort, and the survey of a country the size of the United States is no small challenge. These two volumes are the published outcome of extensive work by the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. The first section reviews the major factors affecting biological resources, including land use (historical and current processes), climate change, pesticides, etc. The remainder of the two volumes is taken up with regional studies, which include coverage of the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and marine resources in general, as well as the mainland regions. Each regional account contains a review of the landscapes, habitats and communities, with detailed information on biodiversity and the status of endemic and other organisms of particular interest. Some of the latter receive close attention, with detailed population trends supplied or, in the case of scarce habitats, information on developments in management practice (such as changes in fire control policies). Covering such a large area, supplying so much information, and yet maintaining a highly attractive presentation and readable text, this work demands admiration. It represents an important resource in its own right and will prove an invaluable base for further conservation work in the United States.

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