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Wetlands of North America.

Illustrated nature books are often strong on photography and weak in text. This mini-coffee table book is a welcome exception. Over 138 outstanding color photographs by a former National Geographic photographer are framed within the solid text and scholarship of one of the nation's leading wetland ecologists.

The book is organized around four major wetland groups: freshwater marshes, coastal wetlands, swamps and riparian wetlands, and peatlands: bogs and fens. Each section includes a map showing the distribution of each wetland type in the continental US and Canada. The photographs are a mix of landscape scenes and sharp close-ups of plants and animals characteristic of each type of wetland. Readers who have not had the opportunity to see the major wetlands of this continent can rely on the landscape scenes. The selection of species for the close-ups is very good.

But there is disturbing dichotomy between the illustrations and the text. Niering discusses the functions of wetlands that are valuable to human welfare and safety and to wildlife habitat and the events that have led to loss of one-half of the original wetland acreage of the United States. But there are no author's illustrations of the ongoing activities responsible for wetland loss and long-term economic costs to the nation. Perhaps this is a conflict too difficult for commercial editors to resolve.

The title would have been more accurate had it been "Wetlands of The United States." The maps and text exclude Mexico and provide very little detail on Canada, which has 25 percent of the world's wetland area. Part of the problem is that the US and Canada have approached wetland inventory in different ways that make constructing a unified map difficult. Readers who want the first effort at a unified map and a more comprehensive continental view will turn to Wetlands by Finlayson and Moser (Facts on File), which is global in scope but heavier on text than is this volume.

An an introductory book for the public, for schools, and for wetland scientists who want to give legislators and their in-laws some sense of why they muck about in swamps, this is a timely and welcome publication.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Larson, Joseph S.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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