Publisher: Cambridge University Press Date of Publication: 2005
Price: £ 24.99 ISBN: 0 521 53200 0
Pages: xiii + 431 Format: Paperback

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1 - Ecological restoration as a project for global society; 2 - Concepts in restoration ecology; 3 - Landscape: spatial interactions; 4 - Ecosystems: trophic interactions; 5 - Communities: interspecific interactions; 6 - Populations: intraspecific interactions; 7 - Populations: re-introductions; 8 - Restoration of dry grasslands and heathlands; 9 - Restoration of mires and wet grasslands; 10 - Restoration of forests; 11 - Restoration of rivers and floodplains; 12 - Restoration of freshwater lakes; 14 - Restoration of Mediterranean woodlands; 15 - Restoration of alpine ecosystems; 16 - Challenges for ecological theory; 17 - Challenges for the practice of ecological restoration.



Despite the long history of ecological degradation, the idea of putting things to rights has a far more recent history. The notion of using science (especially ecology) to accomplish this is more recent still. The new sub-discipline of restoration ecology is perhaps no more than 20-30 years old and yet it has grown rapidly and has started to produce serious studies (and at least one international organisation). There is a need, therefore, for texts aimed at exploring the nature of the topic and the ways it can be used, which this text seeks to do.

The book is divided into four parts with the first being and introduction to restoration ecology. Chapter one acts as an overview of the history, theory and philosophy of restoration ecology. It outlines the development of the topic, the science of restoration and ecosystem services. Chapter two looks at some of the key ideas behind the topic. The basic aim is to return a degraded area to a prior state but this raises a series of questions about how to proceed and to what end. Part two looks at the basic ecological knowledge needed to understand restoration. At this point it's worth noting that a key element here is the extent to which theoretical ecology could (but, as yet doesn't always) help in providing clear guidelines for successful restoration. The argument could continue with the idea that until we have sufficiently rigorous understanding of all ecological processes we are unlikely to be totally successful at restoration (although there will always be some form of 'success'). Chapter three looks at landscapes and the flow of materials and energy between them. Chapter four focusses on trophic interactions. As we go down the scale so the items of concern change. Thus regional scale (landscape) needs a regional focus (flows) whereas by the time we're down to communities and populations we are dealing with intra- and inter-specific competition (chapters five and six). One major aspect of degraded areas in the likelihood of introduced species. These tend to act at the population level and so chapter seven looks at the problem at this scale. Part three looks at the other side of the equation - restoration perspectives. The overall aim of this section is to show how certain landscapes have been restored and the issues that have arisen. The first example is dry grasslands and heathlands. Starting with an overview of the ecosystem it moves on to threats i.e. the background to degradation, and thence to the various restoration techniques used e.g. mowing, grazing etc. concluding with some key issues. This is followed by mires and wetlands but only in general terms. Chapter 10 deals with forests and particularly the problems of continental Europe. The problem here is that there are a range of forest ecosystems each reacting slightly differently to the same threats so a unified approach is not possible. Chapter 11 moves on the floodplains and rivers. Using examples from the UK, Denmark, Italy and Ireland the contributors show how rivers can be restored. Keeping with the aquatic theme, chapter 12 examines lake restoration. This is a far less easy task due to the nature of the ecosystem but problems such as acidity and eutrophication need to be addressed. Moving down the hydrologic system, chapter 13 describes the problems and practices of tidal restoration with special mention of salt marsh habitats. The final two examples in this section discuss Mediterranean and alpine areas respectively. Both have a long history of human usage and both are fragile in their own ways so restoration, especially in the context of EU policy, is vital. Part four looks towards the future. The two chapters address opposite sides of restoration ecology. The former looks at the challenges for ecological theory whilst the latter focusses on the practice of restoration.

This is a very useful text. The back cover information notes that it is aimed at Masters and PhD students etc. suggesting a largely post-graduate audience. However, potential readers shouldn't be put off by this if they fall outside the categories. The material is well presented and accessible. Cases are taken from a range of ecosystems and areas. There are numerous flow diagrams which makes the topics easier to comprehend. This would be an ideal book for the teacher wanting to get more detail about conservation and restoration practices (especially in a field setting). This sub-discipline looks like being one of the main growth areas and this is a very fine introduction to it.


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