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Silent Summer: The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland
Format: HardcoverChange
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
This tome seems something of an outlay but it's a timely and enjoyable summary of the state of British wildlfe, by a range of experts: gain an overall view through the early chapters on the influence of various factors and then either read through methodically, about everything from dragonflies to woodlands, in a series of specialist chapters, or dart through picking those things which are of particular interest.

It is in fact very readable and, with multiple authors with slightly different emphases, if one stays the course one ends up with some kind of synthesis. It leaves the reader with a better grasp of the interplay of a whole range of factors, from habitat fragmentation to the pervasive influence of nutrient enrichment almost everywhere. Climate change is dealt with cautiously, clearly not the major factor yet in many declines. Increases and causes for optimism are also abundant and the title may have been chosen to suggest a successor to Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' when in fact ecological apocolypse is not what is described here.

The authors - no doubt necessarily obsessive human specialists (and nearly all men) - are good at outlining how within their field the specialist species fare much worse than the generalists: one is left in wonder at how many caterpillars with their precise ecological needs ever survive. The chapter on butterflies by J A Thomas is masterly.

There are positive things said about countryside sports and their effect on wildlife, which may evoke controversy; negative things about agricultural intensification (but what is to be done about that, realistically?) and questions asked about whether nature reserves per se do enough: grazing regimes have to spot on; the precise needs of species need to be met.

The downsides? Rather a lot of typos in some chapters (shame on you CUP!); and it is not wonderfully produced for the price (but then there are a lot of words to fit in). The new Government's agenda and the new financial regime which are squeezing Defra's natural environment budget missed the editorial deadline.

All the same, as someone working in the environmental field but without specialist knowledge or time to access primary research, it was very useful. And I have some new words in my vocabulary: the 'pizzle', (animal penis), 'ruderal', (of wasteland) and 'the poached wet berm' (a shelf at the ditch margin at about summer water level - good for flies). Good value, really.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2011
This is not a cover-to-cover "reader", but dipping one learns a lot, over and over. I had not recognised that insects are such a good indicator of habitat health, nor that so many have declined to such an extent. Fly fishermen tell of the change in salmon and trout habits - the fish are no longer so picky about the "correct" fishing fly because there are no more hatchings of massive swarms of blackfly (or whatever fly used to be in season). Fascinating book, far more academic than Silent Spring, but evidenced and referenced declines in almost all quarters, across almost all animal species. Much food for thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2015
Absolutely fantastic read for ecology and conservation students, or anybody who is interested in a reasonably detailed summary of the recent trends in wildlife over the whole united kingdom, also including a chapter for overseas territories. We can all do so much to help and this book is a great foundation for an understanding through which we can make a positive difference.
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