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Weed Risk Assessment

Weed Risk Assessment
R.H. Groves, F.D. Panetta, and J.G. Virtue (editors)
Collingwood, Victoria, Australia: CSIRO Publishing (distributed in the U.S. by Antipodes Books & Beyond Ltd., Silver Spring, Md.)
Publication Date: 

paper, 244 p., AUS$80

As one of the first books to address risk assessment in terms of invasive plants, this book does a remarkable job in blending theory with practice. The editors collected papers from the First International Workshop on Weed Risk Assessment (convened in Adelaide in 1999), asked their authors to expand and update their presentations and then edited them for inclusion in this very engaging volume. Altogether, 30 contributors from Australia, Ecuador, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States bring their expertise to this volume of 19 chapters.

The first of three sections of the book, called "Overviews," was quite valuable. In this part, I found the chapters by Marcel Rejmanek (University of California at Davis) on approaches to assess "invasiveness," Sarah Reichard (University of Washington) on patterns that describe an invasion (with several particularly useful decision trees) and Mark Williamson (University of York) on invasive predictions using British birds in Australia as an example to be very interesting and even exciting. Biomathematics to the rescue, to say the least.

The second section, "National Perspectives," includes essays on situations in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. These chapters are a good counterpoint to the broader perspectives of the first six chapters of the book. The next section, entitled "Regional Perspectives," examines plant introductions in the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Florida and California as well as parts of Australia and New Zealand. Many of the techniques described in this section will find wider application elsewhere as risk assessment becomes, we hope, a more common procedure.

The last part of the book, "Synthesis" really asks the hard question: what are the political realities of risk assessment? How much of this information will be used to make critical decisions on a national and international scale? As the editors note, "Weed risk assessment provides a framework for making decisions; the actual decisions that are made remain largely within the realm of political processes." Another conference and another book perhaps will address this issue of political awareness and action. We can only hope that it will occur soon, and truly be international in scope.

— Edward J. Valauskas, Manager, Library and Plant Information Office, Chicago Botanic Garden