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The Desert Hardcover – 1 Sep 2011
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Deserts are extreme environments. Occupying about 20 per cent of the world's land surface, they are subject to some of the harshest conditions on the planet, being places of minimal rainfall and epic temperatures, from searing heat to intense cold. Rock, sand and gravel provide the stark physical context. Yet deserts are far from the bleak and lifeless wastelands of popular perception, being surprisingly diverse in terms of wildlife. From elephants to tiny lichens, desert flora and fauna are highly specialized, demonstrating a vast range of adaptations that are designed to cope with the demanding environment and exploit fully the ecological niches on offer. In "The Desert", James Parry explores some the world's last great desert wildernesses and reveals the fascinating range of wildlife they support. This book looks at various types of desert, at their different ecosystems and at the diverse features and types of wildlife that make them such exciting places to visit.
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"The Desert" is to give its full title actually "The Desert. Wildlife on the Last Frontier."
Even the author's own webpage fails to give the full title of the book and the image of the book cover has the words "Wildlife on the Last Frontier." inexplicably and seemingly airbrushed out.
I only found out the true title of the book when I received it in the post.
Now having the full title it is perhaps easier to understand why this book is so packed full of animal photos. To be honest I had been expecting a book on deserts landscapes, not a wildlife book. But no matter.
There are some nice images of desert landscapes, but often their location is simply not mentioned in any detail in the text accompanying the photograph. A typical example is on pages 10 &11. Here is a good image of what I already know to be Umm-al-Maa in the Ubari Sand Sea, Libya. But none of this information is mentioned in the text next to the photograph. Instead it just mentions that "permanent lakes and watercourses in the Sahara are few and far between"
- what a banal comment.
An earlier reviewer of this book gave special mention to an "excellent map on pages 16-17", and as I like maps I thought oh good an 'excellent' map, I had looked forward to seeing this. Well having seen it, in my opinion it is certainly not an excellent map, it is basic, poorly conceived and less informative than it could or frankly should be. It does not even illustrate the extent of the worlds deserts, With the exception of the Sahara, no attempt has even been made to write the name the deserts of the world on the map.
Not naming the map with the likes of the Namib, Simpson Desert, Gobi, Empty Quarter, Atacama....? the list goes on and on. Bizarrely the map instead names irrelevant features such as the tiny and obscure Wrangel Island in the East Siberian Sea. Why?
What was the author and his editor thinking?
So at first glance this book is not looking too clever.
At first glance too the photography standard is mixed and the image quality varies greatly. This is a pity. I shall certainly study this book in greater detail and I sincerely hope that it gets better.
The book deals with 20 deserts -Asia 4,Australasia 2, Middle East 4,Europe 1, the Americas 4 and Africa 5. The definition of desert used is an area that receives less than 10 inches of rainfall per year.
There is an excellent map of the deserts on pages 16-17.
In addition to a well written and researched text there are magnificent pictures of wildlife that manage to exist in or on each of these deserts.
This book is a must for anyone interested in the ecology of deserts.