Biological Diversity: exploited and exploiters by & . Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell , 2011 . Paperback. ISBN : 978-0-470-77807 . £34.95 .
The 19 chapters of this book comprise a series of very readable and informative essays, divided into ‘Exploiters’ and ‘Exploited’. The text is supplemented with graphs and fact boxes to add further dimensions and details to the topic in hand. The ‘exploited’ include honeybee, silkworm, sugar cane, salmon, oak and rabbit. Malaria, bracken, red kite and mistletoe are among the eclectic assortment of ‘exploiters’. The account of Sargassum and the Sargasso Sea describes a fascinating area and ecosystem, while the kite essay includes the long history of this bird in association with humans and is well up to date in its coverage of the recent reintroduction program in Britain. The rabbit chapter also covers the historical dimension well, both in Britain and Australia. It includes the controversy regarding introduction of myxomatosis to control rabbits, commenting that this gained praise from agriculturalists and a lawsuit from hunting interests. I found the essay on squid particularly illuminating. These animals grow at a phenomenal rate, offering the prospect of a rich harvest. But, as so often happens, the ‘fishery’ collapsed in the North Atlantic in the 1980s and moved south, where excessive catches immediately ensued. However, population changes are not simply a matter of over-exploitation; they also involve climate change and alterations in ocean currents.
This is a good book to dip into, an interesting one to read on a train journey perhaps. However, anyone wanting to read an overview of malaria, bracken, sugar cane or the wolf would not expect to find it in a book entitled ‘Biological Diversity’. That's a shame as there is much to read here that is very informative. I will keep the book on my shelves, but will I think to consult it next time I want to know about legumes or malaria?