Arid Lands Newsletter (link)No. 54, November/December 2003
Fire Ecology I

Selected resources briefly noted


Smokechasing. By Stephen J. Pyne. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2003. 270 pp. ISBN: 0-8165-2285-5 (paper). US$19.95 (also available in hardback for $37.50). Available from:
The University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Ave., Suite 103
Tucson, AZ 85719

In this volume of 32 essays, fire historian Stephen Pyne builds upon and complements his previous anthology World fire: The culture of fire on earth. Many, but by no means all, of the essays herein focus on the United States. The book's organization borrows roughly from the stages in an event of "smokechasing"--that is, the practice of sending one or more firefighters into wildlands to track down the source of a fire. Thus, the essays are loosely organized into sections, beginning with "Standing orders," or basic premises and guidelines; moving along various compass "Bearings" to provide a global survey of fire-related topics; then providing two U.S.-focused sections related to fire history and controlled burning; regrouping in the reflective "Back at the cache" essays that consider the human experience with fire; and finally, in "Paperwork," tackling the literature and movies of fire. As always in his writings, Dr. Pyne combines scientific rigor with poetic metaphor in a way that is guaranteed to strike sparks in the reader's mind, leading to new ways of understanding fire and its connections to human history and culture.

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The Kruger experience: Ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity. Edited by Johan T. du Toit, Kevin H. Rogers, and Harry C. Biggs. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2003. 492 pp. ISBN 1-55963-982-2 (paperback). US$ 40.00 (also available in hardback for $75.00)
Available from:
Island Press
1718 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009

This book presents a thorough and detailed distillation of a century of scientific research and management in Kruger National Park of South Africa, which comprises some 20,000 km2 of savanna. The significance of this research goes far beyond Kruger National Park alone. The lessons learned, insights gained, and new approaches initiated at Kruger concerning conservation and management are pertinent not only to other African savanna regions but also to large protected areas in general. The book's organization around the cross-cutting theme of ecological heterogeneity ("the ultimate source of biodiversity") increases its interest. Following the preface and foreword, the book's 23 chapters are organized into four sections: (1) The historical and conceptual framework; (2) A template for savanna heterogeneity; (3) Interactions between biotic components; and (4) Humans and savannas. This synthesis should be of interest to a broad audience of scientists, land managers and any others interested in issues of conservation and sustainable development.

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Australian plant communities: Dynamics of structure, growth and biodiversity. By
Ray L. Specht and Alison Specht. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002. 502 pp. ISBN 0-19-551654-0 (paperback). AU$ 75.00. Available from:
Oxford University Press
Australia, New Zealand, Singapore & the Pacific
253 Normanby Road
South Melbourne
Victoria, 3205

The purpose of this book is to provide a synthesis of the physiological processes shaping Australian vegetation. It is divided into two parts. The first summarizes the origins and characteristics of all species populations that are present in the Australian ecosystem, comprising chapters describing the energy/biomass system, dynamics, structural and floristic classification, prehistoric and historic composition of plant communities, and aboriginal impact. The second part develops and examines the basic principles of community physiology; that is, the chemical and physical processes that dynamically control all species populations within the ecosystem, including energetics, temperature, evaporative aerodynamics, available water, ecophysiological leaf attributes, waterlogging, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, biodiversity and energetics, monitoring, and scientific management. While this examination is specifically focused on the vegetation of Australia, the principles developed can be applied to other landscapes around the world. This volume will be of interest not only to environmental scientists and land planners/managers, but also to undergraduate and graduate students in environmental science and resource management courses.

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Landscape planning for the arid Middle East: An approach to setting environmental objectives. By Safei-Eldin A. Hamed. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. Mellen Studies in Architecture, Vol. 7. 260 pp. ISBN: 0-7734-7315-7. US$ 109.95. Available from:
The Edwin Mellen Press
P.O. Box 450/415 Ridge St.
Lewiston, NY 14092-0450

The purpose of this book is to address the related topics of landscape planning and sustainable development of the arid countries of the Middle East. Its intent is to provide both theoretical concepts and practical tools that will help both landscape planners and decision-makers to formulate comprehensive, operational objectives as an integrated part of landscape planning. To that end, the book is divided into seven chapters. The first three discuss the general importance of objectives, examines their essence and roles, and analyzes the process of setting them. In Chapter 4, the author outlines and develops a system of quantifying and structuring landscape planning objectives called "Landscape Planning Objectives System" or "LAPOS." Chapter 5 surveys the unique challenges of sustainable development in the Middle East and provides examples of the dynamics of landscape planning within the region; Chapter 6 surveys relevant case studies. Finally, Chapter 7 draws conclusions and provides a short discussion of key points developed in the text.

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Atlas of the world's deserts. By Nathaniel Harris. New York and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003. ISBN: 1-57958-310-5 (hardback). 190 pp. US$ 125.00. Available from:
Routledge Customer Service
10650 Toebben Drive
Independence, KY 41051

This atlas provides a broad and comprehensive overview of the world's deserts; its layout and extensive illustrations make it especially attractive to the generalist browser and to students. Following a short introduction, the text's chapters alternate between overviews of the world's major deserts by geographic region (including the cold polar deserts) and explorations of major themes relevant to drylands (such as how deserts are formed, how flora and fauna typically cope with arid environments, how human societies have done the same, and current issues in desert development. The overviews of each particular desert cover 2-4 pages each, including maps annotated for points of geographic interest and "fact files" highlighting further details relevant to that desert. Particularly suitable for public and school libraries.

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