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Noteworthy Books

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 16, Issue 3 (2017)

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Southeastern Naturalist Noteworthy Books 2017 Vol. 16, No. 3 B2 Plant Ecology: Origins, Processes, Consequences. Paul A. Keddy. 2017. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA. 604 pp. $65, hardcover. ISBN 9781107114234. Plants are the dominant life form on earth, capturing sunlight and creating a living template for all other species and terrestrial ecosystems. This latest edition of Plant Ecology provides a conceptual framework for plant ecology, integrating classical themes with the latest ideas, models, experiments, and data. The author guides readers through essential concepts using numerous real-world examples and full-colour illustrations. The first chapter puts plant ecology in the largest context: the origin of plants and their impact on the Earth. The second chapter explores current global patterns, emphasizing the need for 2 simultaneous perspectives: the functional and the phylogenetic. The subsequent chapters address causal factors in plant communities: resources, competition, disturbance, herbivory, mutualism, and time. These are followed by chapters on population ecology, stress, and environmental gradients. The two concluding chapters address plant diversity and conservation priorities, respectively. The book has a global scope; examples include the Appalachian Mountains, South African deserts, the Guyana Highlands of South America, the Amazon River, the Himalayas, Tasmania, Easter Island, and arctic alpine environments. Twentyone enrichment boxes cover ancillary stories such as Humboldt’s travels in South America, the history of the Haber process, the discovery of the alternation of generations by Hofmeister, carnivorous plants, diversity indices, and the threats posed to plants by the bush meat industry and by goat grazing. Right Whales: From Hunted Leviathan to Conservation Icon. David W. Laist. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press Baltimore, MD. 464 PP. $44.95, hardcover. For centuries these giant whales were considered the “right whale to hunt” due to their superior oil and baleen. Peoples on both sides of the Atlantic developed increasingly more sophisticated methods of hunting and capturing these whales until until their numbers dwindled to merely 100 worldwide. This dire situation was the impetus for a ban on hunting and a treaty that formed the International Whaling Commission. Despite herculean efforts to increase their numbers, ship strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear have hampered their resurgence. Today only about 500 live along the Atlantic coast – a far cry from the thousands that used to grace these waters. With incredible photographs and art work, this single volume offers a comprehensive understanding of North Atlantic Right Whales, the role they played in the many cultures that hunted them, and our modern attempts to help them recover. Beaked Whales: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Conservation. Richard Ellis and James G. Mead. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 208 pp. $79.95, hardcover. ISBN 9781421421827. Shrouded in mystery for most of the twentieth century beaked whales' natural habitat and resistance to life in captivity have made them notoriously difficult to observe. In recent decades, scientists have gained a better understanding of these creatures. They spend their extensive lifetimes diving to extreme depths in search of prey, which they capture by expanding their oral cavity suddenly to suck in squid or fish. It appears these sleek predators may engage in fierce, clandestine aquatic battles, as many males are covered in scars. Some species are only slightly larger than dolphins and thus often confused with porpoises; however, others may grow to 40 feet. These enigmatic and compelling creatures are declining in number perhaps due to the damaging effects of naval sonar on their sophisticated auditory systems. Ellis and Mead’s book provides captivating stories about the species, original Richard Ellis art, and photos from leading natural history photographers. The result is an accessible, beautiful book—the first of its kind on this unusual group of cetaceans. Wild By Nature: North American Animals Confront Colonization. Andrea L. Smalley. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 352 pp. $49.95, hardcover. ISBN 9781421422350. From the time Europeans first came to the New World until the closing of the frontier, the benefits of abundant wild animals—from Beavers and Wolves to fish, deer, and Bison—appeared as a recurring theme in colonizing discourses. Following a trail of human– animal encounters from the 17th-century Chesapeake to the Civil War-era southern plains, Smalley shows how wild beasts and their human pursuers repeatedly transgressed the lines lawmakers drew to demarcate colonial sovereignty and control, confounding attempts to enclose Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 16/3, 2017 Southeastern Naturalist B3 Noteworthy Books 2017 Vol. 16, No. 3 both people and animals inside a legal frame. She also explores how, to possess the land, colonizers had to find new ways to contain animals without destroying the wildness that made those creatures valuable to English settler societies in the first place. Offering fresh perspectives on colonial, legal, environmental, and Native American history, Wild by Nature reenvisions the familiar stories of early America as animal tales. Amphibians of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. Twan Leenders. January 2017. Cornell University Press Ithaca, NY. 544 pp. $35.00, softcover. ISBN 9781501700620. This is the first in-depth field guide to all 206 species of amphibians known to occur in Costa Rica or within walking distance of its borders. Tiny Costa Rica is host to 146 species of frogs and toads. Frogs of gem-like beauty and dizzying variety abound. In the rainforests, you can find frogs capable of gliding from high in the treetops to the forest floor, some that carry their eggs or their tadpoles around on their back, and others that secrete glue-like substances from their skin that are capable of sticking shut the mouth of attacking snakes. Costa Rica is also home to 53 species of lung-less salamanders and caecilians—bizarre creatures that somewhat resemble giant worms. Author, photographer, and conservation biologist Twan Leenders has put together the richest collection of photographs of Costa Rican herpetofauna known to exist and offers a wealth of natural history information, describing prey and predators, breeding strategies, habitat, and conservation status. American Alligator: Ancient Predator in the Modern World. Kelby Ochley: 2013. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Fl. 160 pp. $19.95, hardcover. ISBN 9780813049137. In the 1960s, the American Alligator population teetered on the brink of extinction. Their recovery in the 1970s and 1980s was largely due to legislative intervention. American Alligator is the most up-to-date and comprehensive treatment of this resilient relic, a creature with a brain weighing less than half an ounce that has successfully adapted to a changing Earth for more than 200 million years. Today only 23 species of crocodilians remain. That the Alligator lineage survives at all, having successfully weathered millions of years of environmental change, speaks to an impressive degree of fitness and adaptability. The loss of the American Alligator would be a blow to biodiversity and an ecosystem disruption affecting all levels of the food chain. Ouchley cautions us not to forget the lessons learned: human activities, from urban development to energy production, can still threaten the future of the American Alligator and its southern wetland habitat. Indian River Lagoon: An Environmental History. Nathaniel Osborn. 2016. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Fl. 210 pp. $26.95, hardcover. ISBN 9780813061610. Stretching along 156 miles of Florida’s East Coast,the Indian River Lagoon is a delicate ecosystem of shifting barrier islands and varying salinity levels due to its many inlets that open and close onto the ocean. The long, ribbon-like lagoon spans both temperate and subtropical climates resulting in the most biologically diverse estuarine system in the United States. Nineteen canals and 5 man-made inlets have dramatically reshaped the region in the past 2 centuries, intensifying its natural instability and challenging its diversity. Indian River Lagoon traces the winding story of the waterway, showing how humans have altered the area to fit their needs and also how the lagoon has influenced the cultures along its shores. Now stuck in transition between a locus of labor and a destination for recreation, the lagoon has become a chief focus of public concern. This book provides a much-needed bigger picture as debates continue over how best to restore this natural resource. Snakes of the Eastern United States. Whit Gibbons. 2017. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 392 pp. $32.95, softcover. ISBN 9780820349701. More than 60 species of snakes are found in the eastern United States, the region of highest biodiversity of all reptiles and amphibians in North America. In this new guide, stunning photographs, colorful geographic range maps, and comprehensive written accounts provide essential information about each species— including detailed identification characteristics, general ecology and behavior, and conservation status. Carefully researched and written by an expert herpetologist, the guide is directed toward a general audience interested in natural history. An additional chapter focuses on urban and suburban snake ecology A chapter on snake conservation includes information on threats faced by native species in many regions of the eastern United States. Another chapter provides Southeastern Naturalist Noteworthy Books 2017 Vol. 16, No. 3 B4 The Southeastern Naturalist welcomes submissions of review copies of books that publishers or authors would like to recommend to the journal’s readership and are relevant to the journal’s mission of publishing information about the natural history of the southeastern US. Accompanying short, descriptive summaries of the text are also welcome. the latest updates on the status of invasive species of pythons and boa constrictors that have now become naturalized permanent residents in certain areas of the country. This is the most accessible and informative guide to snakes of the eastern United States available anywhere. Alabama Wildlife: Volume 5. Ericha Shelton- Nix (Ed.). 2017. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. 376 pp. $44.95, hardcover. ISBN 9780817319618. Alabama Wildlife: Volume 5 offers a comprehensive update and provides a wealth of new information concerning changes and developments relative to the conservation status of wild animal populations of the state that have occurred in the decade since publication of the previous 4 volumes in 2004. Enhancements include the addition of any new or rediscovered taxon, species priority status changes, and taxonomic changes, plus the addition of the crayfishes, which were left out previously because so little was known about these understudied taxa. Guide to the Geology and Natural History of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Edgar W. Spencer. 2017. King Printing, Lowell, MA. 396 pp. $29.95, softcover. ISBN 9780983747161. As you travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike the Appalachian Trail, or visit the national and state parks scattered throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, you will encounter an incredible variety of natural landscapes, micro climates, and fascinating rock formations. Over millions of years, the ecosystems thriving here have evolved into some of the world’s most diverse collections of flora and fauna. Full of rich detail and easy to use, this beautifully illustrated full-color guide to the region was written and designed for great accessibility, whether you’re a first-time visitor looking to understand the Parkway’s spectacular views or an experienced geology or nature enthusiast. For those seeking a greater understanding of the inner workings of the geology and natural history of the Blue Ridge, this is an indispensable companion.