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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


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Water: A Way of Life:  Sustainable Water Management in a Cultural Context by A.J.M. (Lida) Schelwald-van Der Kley, Linda Reijerkerk (CRC Press) How to make water management projects more successful and sustainable? How is it that large infrastructural water works often encounter opposition? Is it perhaps, among other things, the lack of attention for the cultural context? These and other intriguing questions are dealt with in this book. The authors, having 20 years of experience on water and sanitation in an international context, have investigated the relationship between water and culture world-wide in order to find new keys to successful and sustainable water management.

This book is based on extensive research and is intended to form a cultural road towards new sustainable water management practices. Water: A Way of Life takes the reader on a water journey through time and across the world's continents. Along the way it explains the past and present ways in which different cultures around the world, both traditional and modern, view and manage water in response to the distinct environment they inhabit. As beliefs and values are at the heart of any culture, it also highlights the views of the main world religions on water and its use. A better understanding of cultural water beliefs and practices may lead to new concepts for future sustainable water management — from flood management to water supply, sanitation and irrigation management. More

The Functional Assessment of Wetland Ecosystems: Towards Evaluation of Ecosystem Services, includes CD edited by Edward Maltby, U Digby, C Baker (CRC Press)  Wetlands perform functions that deliver benefits to society, often referred to as ecosystem services. These ecosystem services include water supply, flood regulation, water purification, climate regulation, biodiversity, agriculture (e.g. grazing land), and amenity. A functional approach to wetland assessment enables a holistic view to be taken of the wide range of services that wetlands can provide. The functional assessment procedures (FAPs) in this volume translate best available scientific knowledge into reasonable predictions of how component parts of wetlands function in different landscape contexts. They can be used to indicate the potential and priorities for management options in areas such as flood control, pollution reduction and biodiversity conservation.
Functional assessment enables the user to predict the functioning of a wetland area without the need for comprehensive and expensive empirical research. The FAPs therefore provide a methodology that can be used by both experts and non-experts to assess wetland functioning relatively rapidly. The volume includes an electronic version of the FAPs on CD which automates aspects of the assessment once the initial recording stage is completed. It is anticipated that the FAPs will be used by a range of individuals or organisations concerned with wetland management who wish to gain a better understanding of the processes, functions, services or benefits and potential of the wetlands for which they have responsibility.

Ancient Agriculture: Roots and Application of Sustainable Farming by Gabriel Alonso De Herrera (Ancient City Press) is the first English translation of the book that carried traditional farming techniques from the Old World of Europe to the New World of the Americas. The original book, Obra de Agricultura by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, was initially published in 1513 as an instruction manual for the farmers of Talavera de la Reina in central Spain. It was revised several times as the author learned increasingly more about land use and sophisticated irrigation techniques beyond the Iberian Peninsula, which Moorish farmers of the day had blanketed in exotic fruits and vegetables.  More

Tropical Deforestation edited by Sharon L. Spray, Matthew D. Moran (Exploring Environmental Challenges: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) Tropical Deforestation introduces readers to the important concepts for understanding the environmental challenges and consequences of deforestation. Contributions from scientists and academics in the social sciences and humanities provide readers with an initial "tool kit" for understanding the central con­cepts in each disciplinary perspective and the multidimensional aspects of deforestation. More

The Behavior And Ecology Of Pacific Salmon And Trout by Thomas P. Quinn (University of Washington Press) (Hardcover) Pacific salmon are a remarkable group of animals, and the connections to their ecosys­tems and to humans may be more complex and profound than any other group of ani­mals, and certainly more than any other group of fishes. First, though perhaps not foremost, they are collectively among the most valuable commercial fishery resources of the United States, with annual landed values that averaged $390 million from 1992 to 2001 according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistical reports. This is matched only by taxa such as crabs and shrimp that are taken from both oceans and include many diverse species. The finfish species that dominate the tonnage landed, walleye pollock and Atlantic menhaden in recent years, are lower in value than salmon despite their volume. More

Environmental Justice and the Rights of Unborn and Future Generations: Law, Environmental Harm and the Right to Health by Laura Westra (Earthscan)  The traditional concept of social justice is increasingly being challenged by the notion of a humankind that spans current and future generations. This book, with a foreword by Roger Brownsword, is the first systematic examination of how the rights of the unborn and future generations are handled in common law and under international legal instruments. It provides comprehensive coverage of the arguments over international legal instruments, key legal cases and examples including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, industrial disasters, clean water provision, diet, HIV/AIDS, environmental racism and climate change. Also covered are international agreements and objectives as diverse as the Kyoto Protocol, the Millennium Development Goals and international trade. The result is the most controversial and thorough examination to date of the subject and the enormous ramifications and challenges it poses to every aspect of international and domestic environmental, human rights, trade and public health law and policy. More

Lakes Handbook: Lake Restoration and Rehabilitation, Volume 2 edited by P. E. O'Sullivan, by C. S. Reynolds, F. W. B. Bugenyi , Lyudmila Butorina, G. I. Cowan (Blackwell Publishing) in this handbook which focuses on conservation of lake ecology, experts address initially the basic value of lakes and the way human development has undermined the quality of sound of lake ecology. The volume is divided into five parts.  The first part introduces the need for Lake restoration and rehabilitation.  Part two provides regional case studies about lakes covering the North American Great Lakes the Lakes of northern Europe the great lakes of Asia in a discussion of the floodplains in subtropical South America. Part three addresses the specific human impact on lake ecologies especially on reservoirs and artificial lakes as well as a tropical shallow lakes and temperate shallow lakes.  Part four addresses lake and catchments models with an emphasis on the quality of water and the nature of fist stocks present. Nutrient loading and phosphorus loaning as well as acidfied lakes are specifically addressed as a problem in lake rehabilitation. Part five concludes with in the United States and Sweden, East Africa and South Africa.  Altogether this volume is a useful contribution to a wider understanding of the necessity of preserving our natural resources. The volume is most likely to be used in practical applications geology courses or biology courses but it also has a use for critiquing developmental plans and how they impact both natural and artificial freshwater resources. More

Glacier Science and Environmental Change edited by Peter Knight, Giuseppe Bertola (Blackwell Publishing Professional) is an authoritative and comprehensive reference work on contemporary issues in glaciology. It explores the interface between glacier science and environmental change, past, present, and future.Written by the world's foremost authorities in the subject and researchers at the scientific frontier where conventional wisdom of current approaches comes face to face with unsolved problems, this book provides:

  • state-of-the-art reviews of the key topics in glaciology and related disciplines in environmental change

  • cutting edge case studies of the latest research

  • an interdisciplinary synthesis of the issues that draw together the research efforts of glaciologists and scientists from other areas such as geologists, hydrologists, and climatologists.

The topics in this book have been carefully chosen to reflect current priorities in research, the interdisciplinary nature of the subject and the developing relationship between glaciology and studies of environmental change. Glacier Science and Environmental Change is essential reading for advanced undergraduates, postgraduate research students and professional researchers in glaciology, geology, geography, geophysics, climatology and related disciplines. More

A Handbook of Sustainable Development Planning: Studies in Modelling and Decision Support by M. A. Quaddus, M. A. B. Siddique, Muhammed Abu B. Siddique (Edward Elgar Publishing) comprehensively examines the current status and future directions of model-based systems in decision support and their application to sustainable development planning. It begins with a comprehensive review of model-based applications in sustainable development planning, paying particular attention to environmental disaster, ecosystem management, energy, infrastructure development, and agricultural systems, amongst other contemporary issues. Conceptual and policy oriented papers then debate the future directions of model-based sustainable development planning. Taking account of the fact that sustainable development planning is multidimensional by nature, the contributors concede that a single exemplary model does not exist. The aims of the stakeholders, along with preferences and priorities surrounding the planned objectives determine the ways and means of sustainable development planning. A number of tools - from simple intuition based approaches to sophisticated mathematical modeling - are therefore utilized within the Handbook. An important feature of the work is the emphasis on Decision Support Systems (DSS) and Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS) approaches - it is argued that these are natural and appropriate for sustainable development planning. Given the rise in prominence of sustainable development planning in recent years, this Handbook will be invaluable to a wide-ranging audience including NGOs, planners, consultants, policymakers, and academics. More

Handbook of Atmospheric Science: Principles and Applications edited by Andrea Jackson, C. N. Hewitt, U. Baltensperger, Peter Brimblecombe, D. Carruthers (Blackwell Publishing) The alarming consequences of global climate change have highlighted the need to take urgent steps to combat the causes of air pollution. Hence, understanding the Earth's atmosphere is a vital component in Man's emerging quest for developing sustainable modes of behavior in the 21st century. Written by a team of expert scientists, the Handbook of Atmospheric Science provides a broad and up-to-date account of our understanding of the natural processes that occur within the atmosphere. It examines how human activities have had a detrimental effect on the climate, and how measures may be implemented in order to modify these activities. The book progresses through chapters covering the principles of atmospheric science and the current problems of air pollution at the urban, regional, and global scales, to the tools and applications used to understand air pollution. More

Laser Ablation-ICP-MS in Archaeological Research edited by Robert J. Speakman, Hector Neff (University of New Mexico Press) These fifteen essays explore the archaeological applications of an exciting new field of research in materials science. Since the first archaeometric uses of inductively coupled plasma (ICP) in the early 1980s, most applications have required the processing of solid samples with heat and/or strong acids. This is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes dangerous.  More

Biomes of Earth: Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Human-Dominated by Susan L. Woodward (Greenwood Publishing Group) Understanding biomes--the communities of nature that share a similar climate and plant and animal life--is key to a student's success in biology, geography, and environmental studies. This book provides a thorough and accessible description of the climate, plant and animal life, origins and human impacts, and history of the scientific exploration of every major biome in the world.

A biome is a conceptual categorization of a major ecological unit corresponding to regional climate type. Building upon established categorizations of biomes, Woodward offers descriptive accounts of each of the Earth's major biomes, discussing their common morphological characteristics, the flora and fauna, the origins of their characteristics, and the impact of human activity. She also introduces discussion of the less widely recognized category of human dominated biomes.

The biome concept originated as a way to classify terrestrial communities. Later the biome concept embraced the entirety of the ecosystem: the community of living organisms plus the nonliving parts of the environment with which plants and animals and microbes interact to pass the sun's energy through the system and recycle nutrients. Several schemes, employing different names and criteria, have been developed for delineating biomes at both country-specific and global levels. No particular scheme is followed in this book, but it builds upon a general consensus of which vegetation types are significant on a global scale and constitute the foundations of major biomes. The selection of regional expressions is problematic in some instances, perhaps most obviously in deciding what should be called a type of tropical savanna and what should be called tropical dry forest. This issue points to the fact that biomes do not have absolute boundaries; one grades into another, and we merely seek an overall pattern.

The nonterrestrial biomes presented in this book are not well established as such in the literature. The original biome concept depended on natural vegetation, on land plants. Aquatic environments really have nothing comparable, although some coastal and continental shelf marine communities receive their structural foundation from living organisms. Examples are coral reefs, sea-grass meadows, and kelp forests. Freshwater aquatic habitats might be considered a single biome or perhaps three (streams, lakes, and wetlands) but here are grouped into two usually connected biomes—streams and lakes—with wetlands viewed as part of the stream environment. The division is admittedly arbitrary, and the user of the book should feel free to place habitats in whatever and however many biomes seem reasonable to them!

The human-dominated biome categories are also somewhat arbitrary and not truly compatible with the original biome concept. They are mainly the product of the author's interest in cultural biogeography, the distribution of plants and animals resulting from the activities of humans as agents of evolution (e.g., breeding crops and livestock, promoting conditions that encourage the evolution of weeds) and dispersal (the deliberate and accidental transport and introduction of species). The types of plants dominating sites were considered in devising the biomes or major expressions of a biome. The question of degree of human dominance also was considered. The entire Earth is influenced by human activities, so it wouldn't be a great stretch of the imagination to consider all biomes human dominated. Readers will need to judge for themselves upon considering the information presented in each biome chapter.

An attempt to provide the same kinds of information for each biome identified, although this was not always possible or reasonable. Each chapter begins with an overview of basic characteristics, distribution, and climate/environmental controls. The chapters on terrestrial biomes have separate sections on climate, plants, animals, and soil. The aquatic biome chapters describe aspects of the physical environment—in particular substrate but also water temperature and water chemistry—that influence the distribution of life and present challenges to which organisms must adapt to survive. Major regional or environmental expressions of each terrestrial and aquatic biome were selected for further elaboration of the characteristics of the biome and to give an idea of the variation that exists within it. Many more could have been described, and selection was based on avail-able information, continental representation, and, sometimes, the existence of curious anomalies. These chapters conclude with sections on human impacts, the origins in time and space of the particular environmental conditions and species comprising the biome, and a brief history of scientific investigation and the contributions to science that have come from studying the biome.

The human-dominated biomes had to be treated a bit differently than the natural biomes, but the same general chapter structure was maintained. An obvious change was replacing the human-impact section with a description of some of the impacts of the biome itself on natural communities.


Rivers and Floodplains: Forms, Processes, and Sedimentary Record by J. S. Bridge (Blackwell) Rivers and floodplains are of interest to most people in one way or another, because most of us live near rivers and floodplains and rely on them for water supply, food, power, transport, recreation, waste disposal, and as a source of raw materials. Earth scientists and civil, environmental, and agricul­tural engineers must understand rivers and flood­plains in order to deal with problems such as floods, water supply, design and construction of artificial channels, river-bank erosion, sedimentation in reservoirs and navigated waterways, restoration of freshwater habitats, and remediation of polluted surface water and groundwater. Earth scientists (particularly physical geographers and sedimentary geologists) also study modem rivers and flood­plains in order to understand how water flows, transports, erodes, and deposits sediment, and how these processes control the form of hill-slopes, river channels, floodplains, alluvial fans, and deltas. Sedimentary geologists are particularly interested in the nature of modern deposition in rivers and flood­plains, as this knowledge must be used to inter­pret the origin of ancient river deposits. Ancient river deposits contain a record of past landscapes, earth movements, and climates. An understanding of ancient river deposits is essential for effective exploration, development, and management of economically important resources contained within ancient river deposits, such as water, oil, gas, placer minerals, and coal. Therefore, hydrogeologists, environmental geologists, petroleum geologists, and engineers must understand the deposits of rivers and floodplains. This broad interest in rivers and floodplains has resulted in such a vast and disparate literature that it is very difficult to obtain a compre­hensive view of rivers and floodplains as a general background for work in a more specialized field. Therefore, my purpose in writing this book is to bring together the literature on rivers and flood­plains in a way that will appeal to a broad audience of students, teachers, and practicing professionals in the fields of geology, geography, and engineering.

Rivers and Floodplains is concerned with the origin, nature, and evolution of alluvial rivers and floodplains. Following a brief overview of river systems, the main part of the book is concerned with the geo­metry, water flow, sediment transport, erosion, and deposition associated with modern alluvial rivers and floodplains, and how this information is used to interpret deposits of ancient rivers and floodplains. These topics are considered in order of increasing spatial and time scale. There is a section on inter­pretation of the types and lifestyles of ancient land-dwelling organisms from organic remains in fluvial deposits. Throughout the book, there is spe­cific reference to human interactions with rivers and floodplains, and associated environmental and engineering concerns. There is also frequent refer­ence made to economic aspects of fluvial deposits. Methods of studying rivers and floodplains and their deposits are discussed at the end of the book.

The approach taken in Rivers and Floodplains is to emphasize basic principles, but also to discuss some of the more important details. These principles and details are supported by many examples, but Bridge  has tried to avoid a catalogue of case studies. A basic aim is to foster understanding of the nature of modern rivers and floodplains, and to illustrate that this understanding is required before any problems concerning rivers and floodplains, past or present, can be understood.

Achieving Sustainable Freshwater Systems: A Web of Connections by Marjorie M. Holland, Elizabeth R. Blood, Lawrence R. Shaffer (Island Press) One of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century is to develop a means of satisfying the water demands of an ever-expanding human population while at the same time protecting the aquatic ecosystems and ecological services upon which all life depends.


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