Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: A Conservation Assessment. Wikramanayake, E., E. Dinerstein, C. J. Loucks, D. M. Olson, J. Morrison, J. Lamoreux, M. McKnight, and P. Hedao. 2002. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 824 pp. $85 (paperback). ISBN 1-55963-923-7.
A significant part of the Earth's biodiversity is contained in the Indo-Pacific region, extending from the Indian subcontinent to New Guinea and Melanesia, including southern Asia and Southeast Asia. The area includes 5 bioregions, 140 ecoregions, and 6 of the 25 global hotspots of biodiversity. In our efforts to conserve global biodiversity, then, few areas are as important as the Indo-Pacific region.
This volume by Wikramanayake et al. is more than a conservation assessment. The material in the book covers almost all issues relevant to the development of a conservation strategy. Thus, there are chapters on the distribution of biodiversity, threats to biodiversity, priorities for conservation, and approaches to conservation. Twenty-two essays by such notables as Tony Witten, John Seidensticker, Jason Clay, John Robinson, Judy Mills, and Kathy MacKinnon, among others, are interspersed throughout the book. The essays cover a wide range of topics such as limestone biodiversity, tiger protection, direct payments for conservation, and integration of community concerns into conservation actions.
The unique feature of this book is the information about the spatial distribution of biodiversity and the potential threats to biodiversity. The volume contains a diverse array of maps showing the distribution of ecoregions, major biomes, and endemic species of selected groups of animals and plants and other aspects of biodiversity. Priorities for conservation are then defined on the basis of spatial data, the uniqueness of habitats and biota, and the vulnerability of habitats to anthropogenic pressures. A notable feature is a section on methods to assess conservation status of ecoregions and biological distinctiveness of ecological communities.
Like many others, I love maps. In this book two of my few complaints are that the maps are cluttered with details and that the detailed inlays of the maps are not very clear. I would have preferred fewer but clearer maps. Although the essays constitute a strength of the book, they are often awkwardly placed, which interrupts the flow of the main contents of the volume.
Overall, however, this is a great book about an important region of the world. The wealth of materials brought together by the editors and the essay authors will greatly benefit the conservation community in the region. The volume is a part of a series on the major ecoregions of the world and the set, once completed, should find a place on the shelves of most conservation professionals.