Parking  |  Tickets  |  Donate

North American Terrestrial Vegetation

North American Terrestrial Vegetation
Michael G. Barbour and William Dwight Billings (editors)
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 708 p., $49.95

From the tundra of the circumpolar North to the forests of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Islands, the forces of nature and its creatures have made, modified, helped and harmed an astonishingly wide variety of vegetation. Nearly four billion years of creation and change have produced land masses and their plant cover. This second edition of perhaps the most definitive textbook of North American ecology will by turns inform, delight, challenge and rebuke readers of many interests. Primarily a didactic achievement of a high order of scholarship by a large number of expert contributors, this fascinating volume will reward the casual reader and the intensely focused student alike with insightful surveys of the thousands of habitats in which vegetation flourishes or struggles to survive. Tundra and permafrost, mangroves and saline water, sand and xeric plants, temperate woodlands and grasslands of all sorts demonstrate the interactions of our challenged biosphere.

The reader will need some basic botanical knowledge to profit from these well-written pages. Travelers can visit places that have delighted them, piqued their curiosity or even held no apparent attraction. The student, at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level, will find a great mass of information organized for survey, reference and enlightenment. The rapid growth of this vast body of ecological knowledge is underscored by the fact that this second edition expands and updates a work originally published in 1988.

Throughout these pages are records of and descriptions about man's interaction with this planet's flora. Doctrinaire apologists for Native Americans, those earlier immigrants to our shores, will not find much comfort in the often negative impact of Indian presence, long before the arrival of documented Europeans, which is set forth, particularly for the eastern United States. This book amply demonstrates that all humanity has a lot to apologize for, given its uniformly less than beneficial role in ecological change.

Anyone who wants to understand North American ecology in its broad sweep and minute detail should not only read, but also absorb, this treasure trove of knowledge.

— John F. Swenson, Volunteer, Plant Information Office, Chicago Botanic Garden