Updated Conservation Classic


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Insect Diversity Conservation . Samways, M. J. 2005 . Cambridge University Press , New York . 353 pp . ( xi + 342 ). $55.00 (paperback) . ISBN 0-521-78947-8 .

In the preface, the author tells us that his goal for Insect Diversity Conservation is to provide an “overview and critically appraise the conservation of insect diversity.” In the publisher's flyleaf, however, we are told that the intended audience for this book includes “undergraduates, postgraduates, researchers, and managers both in conservation biology and entomology and in the wider biological and environmental sciences.” Although the audience as described might simply represent the publisher trying to sell books, a critical appraisal of sufficient depth is incompatible with such a broadly defined audience. We believe that, ultimately, this book fails to provide the critical appraisal of interest to postgraduates, researchers, and managers, but may serve an audience of undergraduates if supplemented with more detailed case studies drawn from the primary literature.

Insect Diversity Conservation appears to be an updated and reorganized version of Samways' earlier book Insect Conservation Biology published in 1994. Springer, New York).

It is divided into three sections: part I—“The Need for Insect Diversity Conservation,” part II—“Insects and the Changing World,” and part III—“Conserving and Managing Insect Diversity.”

Part I predominantly provides background information on insect biology at a depth that would only serve undergraduates. Chapter 1, however, on the ethical foundations of insect conservation, could usefully have been recast and relocated in the final chapter on social issues in insect conservation. A major issue in insect conservation is changing human attitudes about insects. Such an attitude change may be facilitated by education on the ethical and moral ideas described in this chapter.

Part II describes anthropogenic threats to insect diversity, but it lacks a critical appraisal of these threats. Chapters 4 and 5 on degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems and responses of insects to a changing land mosaic are repetitive and should have been combined into a single, more succinct chapter. Chapter 6 on the threats of invasive species does not mention the literature on host-range expansion by insects onto novel host plants. Chapter 7 on the threat of global climate change makes only passing references to the complex response of herbivorous insects to CO2 increase, how phenology and geographic ranges may shift in response to climate change, and the adaptive potential of insects due to their short generation times and high reproductive capacity.

Part III addresses the variety of approaches to insect conservation. Chapter 8 is a broad review of approaches to conservation planning, but the space would have been better spent on specific applications to insects with more in-depth coverage of monitoring and conservation strategies in later chapters. Chapters 9 through 11 describe practices and approaches in monitoring, conservation, and restoration, but do not provide sufficient guidance on how to overcome challenges unique to insects. The chapters are primarily descriptive, and we would have preferred more analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches to conserving insects.

Overall the text succeeds in marshalling a diverse literature and introducing it to a broad audience. The text fails, however, to address any single audience effectively. Insect Diversity Conservation lacks the detailed examples to instruct undergraduates, and it does not provide the critical appraisal useful to postgraduates and researchers. Additionally the text is vague and in places lacks a cohesive train of thought. One could erase insects from the title of the book and present it as a review of diversity conservation because it provides few insights unique to insects. If supplemented with more in-depth case studies, however, Insect Diversity Conservation could be an effective teaching tool for undergraduates.