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Natures TJoan Maloof
Timber Press, £20.00

There is nothing quite like a book on forests to engage ecologists. With this text, Joan Maloof, founder and director of the non-profit organisation the Old-Growth Forest Network in the US, provides a succinct introduction to old-growth forests. The emphasis is on forests of the east coast of the US, but reference is made to similarly unmanaged forests elsewhere.

The fact that any forests remain intact and unmanaged is in itself amazing and makes the title 'Nature's Temples' particularly apt. All such forests share similarities, but each is unique due to the factors of time, space, geology, soil, climate and evolution.

The early chapters of the book examine the trees themselves – some are the oldest trees on Earth; others are the largest. All are significant stores of carbon. Subsequent chapters focus on the other organisms that characterise these temples. Among the zoological elements discussed are birds, amphibians, snails, insects, worms and mammals, with information on their significance and interactions within these forest ecosystems.

The botanical elements presented include herbaceous plants, mosses, liverworts, fungi and lichens, and their roles in forest dynamics are discussed.

The final chapter asks the question: do humans need the forest? The answer is simple: yes, absolutely. These and all other forests are essential for the regulation of biogeochemical cycles and hence climate, as well asfor the preservation of biodiversity.

The information presented is based on abundant scientific papers and internet sources, details of which are provided. The many black-and-white illustrations of trees and their inhabitants, mostly by Andrew Joslin, capture the essence of the forest environment and contribute considerably to the value of this book.

Dr A M Mannion