Biodiversity in mediterranean ecosystems in Australia

Biodiversity in mediterranean ecosystems in Australia

Biological Conservation 66 (1993) 249-250 BOOK REVIEWS Biodiversity in Mediterranean Ecosystems in Australia. Edited by R. J. Hobbs. Surrey Beatty &...

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Biological Conservation 66 (1993) 249-250


Biodiversity in Mediterranean Ecosystems in Australia. Edited by R. J. Hobbs. Surrey Beatty & Sons Pty Ltd, Chipping Norton, New South Wales. 1992. x + 245 pp. ISBN 0 949324 493. Price: Au$65.00.

poorly printed, with overly-small lettering, or crudely drawn (respectively), but these do not detract seriously from a worthwhile book which deserves attention from the increasing number of people interested in Mediterranean systems, or the broader roles of 'biodiversity' and its management. The book is a fine foundation for constructive complementation by parallel studies and synthesis on other Mediterranean ecosystems, and a worthy contribution to the problems of conserving these intricate communities.

This informative book, the result of a workshop held in Perth in late 1991, is the Australian contribution to the IUBS/SCOPE programme on Mediterranean-type ecosystems, and sets out to explore and develop ideas on the role of 'biodiversity' in ecosystem functioning in Australian Mediterranean areas. The eleven chapters complement each other constructively in discussing, particularly, southwest Australia--where heathlands are among the most diverse plant communities known, as Hopper (Chapter 2) emphasises. Hobbs' introductory chapter sets the perspective for the book, introducing the topic of biodiversity and the features of Australian Mediterranean systems, emphasising that truly natural habitats have been reduced to small remnant areas in some of these. Hopper's stimulating essay on patterns of plant diversity is followed by Groves and Hobbs on 'patterns of plant functional responses and landscape heterogeneity', with a discussion of adaptations of vegetation to low nutrient and seasonal water regimes. Impacts on the regions, particularly land degradation due to agricultural conversion and the introduction of exotic species (such as grazing animals and feral mammals) are discussed by Saunders and Hobbs, and Main's chapter is a broader essay on diversity in ecosystem function. The theme of plant functions in ecosystem maintenance is developed by Lamont, and the complementary role of faunal diversity is assessed by Lambeck. Problems of integration and practical long-term studies are discussed by Lavorek and Noble, and the vulnerability and restoration of Mediterranean systems by Majer. The 'management' theme is enhanced by Main who argues persuasively for a formal decision-making hierarchy, and demonstrates how it may be possible to choose between the options available. Finally, Hobbs' summary shows how understanding might be increased as management parameters are clarified further, and addresses a number of key research themes needed to achieve this. The book is a useful source of information and ideas for managers and researchers seeking to optimise the wise use and conservation of unique Australian ecosystems, and each chapter is clearly and comprehensively referenced. It is generally well-prepared and attractive, with clear and relevant colour illustrations. Some of the line diagrams (e.g. pp. 5, 37, 135) are

T. R. New

Dry Coastal Ecosystems. Volume 2A, Polar Regions and Europe. Edited by E. van der Maarel. Elsevier, Amsterdam. 1993. 600 pp. ISBN 0-444-87348-1. Price: $268.75, Dfl. 430.00. This book continues the series describing the ecosystems of the world. This volume is the first of a two part publication covering dry coastal ecosystems. Whilst it concentrates on sand dunes, it includes much additional and useful information on other formations such as shingle beaches, rocky shores and sea cliffs. In some cases such as the sea cliffs of Britain, a whole chapter is devoted to the subject. Elsewhere only cursory information is given. However, taken together with the information on climate, fauna, geology and conservation this is a very comprehensive volume. As might be expected, some geographical areas are dealt with more thoroughly than others and these reflect the state of knowledge in the countries concerned. The Netherlands, for example, not only contains information on the plant and animal communities of the extensive dunes, but also sets this in an historical and geomorphological context. Some other chapters provide a synthesis on coastal areas which are relatively well-known, but where data are scattered or unpublished. The coastline of southwest Europe falls into this category. On the other hand there are many chapters giving an insight into little surveyed areas, or those where the literature has been relatively inaccessible. These include the eastern Baltic, Black Sea and countries such as Albania and Turkey. The book also provides a synthesis of information on other parts of the world, notably the Polar regions, again generally not available in such a readily accessible form. Given the time taken to produce the volume (some of the manuscripts were complete in 1984 with most dated 1986) it would be easy to criticise the book for being out

Biological Conservation 66 (1993) © 1993 Elsevier Science Publishers Ltd, England 249