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Title: Living in a Dynamic Tropical Landscape
Author(s): Nigel E Stork and Stephen M Turton (eds)
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: Blackwell
Pages:xvii + 632 ISBN: 978 1 4051 5643 1
Price: Format:Hardcover
Target Readership Educator







Content: Introduction; 1 - History and Biodiversity of the wet tropics; 2 - Ecological processes and other ecosystem services; 3 - Threats to the environmental value of wet tropics; 4 - Living in a woreld heritage area; 5 - Restoring tropical forest landscapes; 6 - Science informing policy and conservation and manangement of tropical forests.

Review: Much has been written about tropical forests but often the focus is restricted. Whilst there is nothing wrong in this it does mean that a more multidimensional approach requires more research. If we are trying to see how a range of actors afftecs these places it makes sense to gather all the information in one place so that the reader can appreciate how these forests are viewed and used. The aim of this text is to gather a vast range of brief reports on one tropical area - NW Queensland in Australia - and to discuss not just individual topics but how they interact.

Some idea of the beadth and depth of this research can be gauged from the fact that there are some 49 chapters divided into 6 sections. The intorduction stands on its own and is used to show the reader not familiar with the area something of the geography, ecology and science of the place. Unusually, it covers not just ecology but also research ideas and programmes. As such it is a brief but fascinating holostic look into and area from one of the specialist researchers. Remaining chapters are divided six starting with an examination of the area's "climatic, social and historical" developments. These tropical forests are unusual. Small in extent and often battered by cyclones they form a counterpoint to the taller forests in SE Asia. They also differ from other areas in that they have a significant indigenous history stretching back thousands of years. They are also subject to more modern human interference from post 1788 settlement and have been subjected to significant changes especially given the agricultural use of the Souternmost areas. Tourism is a key component (the 'Rainforest and Reef' tours are a key local economic activity) as is conservation. If the first half of this section focusses more on the human side, the second half is far more ecological and focussed on the creation and maintenance of biodiversity. Part two considers some of the elements of tropical ecology focussing primarily on the hydrological aspects which are crucial to this area. Insects are also a key element discussed here. In keeping with the more practical orientation of the text, two contributions are also devoted to ecosystem services and the issues in putting a value to this region. Whilst one is a more general discussion there is one contribution that focusses on both costs and benefits in ecosystem services again using the case of insects. Part three looks at the threats facing this region. Since climate is a key factor it's not surprising to see both climate change and consequent hydrological impacts as being a major problem. However, this is also a rich agricultural region and many of the threats come from thisa sectore from fragmented landscapes to invasive species both plant and animal. Threats can also arrive with the people who just try to see the aea. Tourists are a key economic resource but they can also degrade areas by their sheer numbers as we already see in reefs and in rainforests near key towns such as Cairns. Part four considers the fact that the wet tropics are also part of a World Heritage Area. As such this gives a layer of protection, but also complexity, on the situation. It's argued that the only way the area can be protected is through commuity involvement - especially important given that the area has been home in indigenous groups for tens of thousands of years. There are more stakeholders than indigneous people. The area is home to researchers, conservation managers and tourists. Although all groups have an interest in the area they also have an impact, especially through transportation so this needs to be taken into account. Part five turns to the question of ecological restoration. Although the area might seem pristine there have been several issues including forestry. The value of the area demands that restoration be effective but this is far from easy. One issue is that there has been too little regard paid to monitoring of restoration and that can have impacts on biodiversity as well as continued use of the area. All of this work comes to naught if the science behind it is not rigorous. The final part six shows how research can be developed to explore some of the key issues from water quality to conservation prioritisation to dialogue between scientists and others.

Overall this is an excellent book dealing with a highly complex topic and area. It brings together such a wide range of interest and ideas that it opens up the debate in wet tropic use and management. As such it is highly recommended for those working in or researching this area. Educators would also find this book of great value. Often the tropical forest is given the usual "lungs of the world" treatment without any regard to the real issues behind the scenes. The detail in this book provides outstanding case study material for a real examination of these areas.





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