I have just reviewed two other guides in the WILDGuide series, one on butterflies and a second one on spiders, and for those organisms, as for all others, habitat is key. Put simply, they have to have a place that provides food, shelter, cover and the conditions to breed successfully.
The coverage of Britain's varied and diverse habitats in the current volume is nothing short of spectacular. This second edition, produced in collaboration with rewilding britain, states that it is fully revised and updated - a modest assertion if ever I saw one.
The introduction furnishes a succinct summary of Britain's natural habitats, with commentary on climate, topography and geography, and an examination of the numerous factors affecting habitat, including human impact and natural forces at work. There is an important section on the conservation of habitats, arguably one of the most pressing issues of our time.
I think that what sets this work apart from other studies of habitat, is the detailed breakdown of conditions which at first glance seem uniform, into a comprehensive examination of climatic and physical features within a given habitat, giving rise to significant differences that together constitute a biome.
For example - the vast swatches of heathland, primarily of Scotland and Wales, are broken down into Lowland Dry Heath, Lowland Wet Heath, Upland Dry Heath, and Upland Wet Heath. Full attention is paid to similarities and differences, comparison with like habitats, a discussion of the flora and fauna of each type, and notes on conservation.
The photographs throughout the book - on every single page - are glorious, featuring not only the landscape, but images of iconic (and not so iconic) organisms found there. The maps are well done and give a visual overview of the extent of the habitat under discussion.
At the end of each section there is a brief statement, both informative and slightly whimsical. After "Garden", a habitat familiar to most, take pleasure in the following: "Jennifer Owen, a zoologist who studied the wildlife in her modest suburban garden in Leicester over a 30-year period, recorded over 2,600 species of animals and plants including 20 insect species new to Britain). Oh what potential there exists for all of us!
Enjoy this book, learn from it, get to know the wonderful regions of the British Isles, and above all cherish and protect them. There can be no better challenge ahead of you.
Britain's Habitats - Princeton University Press - WILDGuides
Authors: Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still and Andy Swash
Paperback - US$32.50 - £25 - ISBN:9780691203591
Published: 24 November 2020
416 pages - 700 colour photographs and maps - 5.88" x 8.25"