Arid Lands Newsletter (link)No. 52, November/December 2002
Special issue: Selected papers from the IALC Conference:
Assessing Capabilities of Soil and Water Resources in Drylands:
The Role of Information Retrieval and Dissemination Technologies


Selected resources briefly noted

compiled and annotated by Katherine Waser


Ecology of Desert Environments (A Festschrift for Prof. J.L. Cloudsley-Thompson on his 80th birthday). Edited by Ishwar Prakash. Scientific Publishers (India), 2001. 471 pp. ISBN: 81-7233-288-2 (cloth). Rs 2500 / US$ 120.00.
Available from:
Scientific Publishers
51, New Pali Road
PO Box 91
Jodhpur 342 001
Email: /

This Festschrift celebrates Dr. John Cloudsley-Smith, eminent desert biologist and founder of the Journal of Arid Environments. The scope of Dr. Cloudsley-Smith's work has ranged widely, encompassing both arid and humid climates around the world and mixing both biology and the human condition. Thus, this Festschrift's scope is also wide-ranging, with its 28 included papers reflecting the varied interests and specializations of the invited authors. While the chapters thus resist easy categorization, a few groupings can be made. Those with an interest in entomology will perhaps find the most of interest, as fully nine of the chapters deal with insects such as spiders in Ghana and Yemen, millipedes in Israel, beetles in Arabia and dragonflies in Sudan. Another dozen or so articles deal with various species of desert flora or fauna or with desert ecosystems overall. Several articles deal with aspects of human interactions with the environment, such as rangeland management, or conservation and education. Although one or two of the chapters do not focus on arid regions or are largely anecdotal, the bulk focus on description of specific research projects and presentation of data; thus, this book may be particularly beneficial to students of desert ecology.

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Linking People, Place, and Policy: A GIScience Approach. Edited by Stephen J. Walsh and Kelley A. Crews-Meyer. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002. 348 pp. + CD-ROM. ISBN: 1-40207-003-9 (cloth). EUR 115.00 / US$ 99.50 / GBP 70.00.
Available from:
Kluwer Academic Publishers
101 Philip Drive Assinippi Park
Norwell, MA 02061 USA
all other countries:
Kluwer Academic Publishers Group
PO Box 322
3300 AH Dordrecht, The Netherlands

This book focuses on GIScience and its tools as they can help further our understanding of the intersection between humans, environment and policy. Specifically, it considers how tools can be developed that will allow better understanding of the dynamics of land use and land use change. Data gathered by tools such as remote sensing have allowed the construction of geographic information systems that greatly improve our understanding of land cover and land cover dynamics. However, understanding human-driven land use and land use change requires the incorporation of an entirely different type of data into these tools. Such data are typically gathered by humans, not by machines; at the level of the human individual, the household or the village, not at the aggregate regional or even continental level; and, often, by subjective techniques such as surveys or interviews, rather than by analysis of digital information. Incorporating such fine-scale, local-level data into a GIS poses numerous challenges. This compilation explores various dimensions of these challenges and provides numerous examples of solutions being developed to address them in different locations around the world. The chapters are oriented by methodological approach. The first set outlines the operational difficulties involved in combining discrete with continuous data. The second explores concepts of boundaries, important for understanding how people are linked to the land that they affect and are affected by. A third set of chapters focuses on classification analysis and its importance for assessing land use change. Many of the chapters relate to deforestation studies, but urban settings and urbanization are covered as well. Throughout, the book is rich in graphics; figures are presented only in black and white in the text, but an attached CD-ROM, presents color graphics that further enhance each chapter.

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The following four books are available from:
Yale University Press
PO Box 209040
New Haven, CT 06520

The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An ecological history. By A.T. Grove and Oliver Rackham. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. 384 pp. ISBN: 0-300-08443-9 (cloth). US$ 75.00.

This book offers an interesting challenge to what its authors call the "Lost Eden" theory of the environmental history of Mediterranean Europe: that this was once a much lusher and more fertile landscape, somewhat like temperate Europe in fact; but that humans progressively degraded and desertified it through mismanagement and unsustainable practices. The authors contend that this view is based less on reality than on an idealized conception of the historical landscape, promoted by artists, poets and scientists of the European Enlightenment. Based on their own research and on careful analysis of other historical and research data, Grove and Rackham trace climate, vegetation and landscape in Mediterranean Europe from prehistoric to present times in the course of 20 profusely illustrated chapters. They posit a climate that has always been unstable, hence leading to a flora that is resilient to extremes of flood or drought and to the differing patterns of human activity. They explore the nature and function of fire, of savannas, of desert-like landscapes within the region. Finally, they describe what they see as the true threats faced by Mediterranean landscapes, which derive from coastal overdevelopment and abandonment of the mountain regions. This resource provides thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in Mediterranean history, ecology and landscape.

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The Nile Basin: National determinants of collective action. By John Waterbury. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. 211 pp. ISBN: 0-300-08853-1. US$ 35.00.

Successful management of transboundary water resources by the different nations sharing the resource exemplifies what is known as a collective action problem. That is, in order to manage the resource for the benefit of all of the riparian nations (or riparians), the individual nations must cooperate and collaborate with each other, and in so doing must often go against their own individual national interest. This book focuses on the Nile Basin of Africa, with its 10 member nations because, because the author states, "...the so far unsuccessful quest for cooperation in the Nile Basin can yield empirical tests for many of our theoretic understandings of collective action and regime formation. It also bears lessons for other complex transboundary rivers." In other words, international cooperation over the water resources within the basin is desirable but so far only hypothetical. In examining why this is so, Waterbury's goal is to arrive at a better understanding of the dynamics that either help or hinder the achievement of collective action. Following a detailed analysis of issues involved, from food security to political stability, he proposes steps that could lead to establishment of sound environmental policy on national levels, and of accords among groups of nations. He also proposes that solutions must be contract-based, must reflect individual national interests and must be brokered by outside funders.

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The Nile. By Robert O. Collins. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. 384 pp. ISBN: 0-300-09764-6. US$ 39.95.

Flowing more than 4,000 miles, the Nile is the longest river in the world. Since prehistoric times, it has flowed through a basin of "astonishing geographical diversity." Its shores have been home to a wide diversity of peoples as well--peoples who have consistently struggled, with varying degrees of success, to tame the river's waters and control its resources. Robert Collins, Professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has studied the Nile for almost 50 years. In this volume he seeks to tell the history of this great river as a whole, writing for a broad audience of those interested in rivers generally or in the Nile specifically. He delves into the river's origins, history, geography, geology, hydrology, and peoples living along its banks. In explicating the river's history, he also raises important issues about its future. Throughout, the book is permeated with the author's fascination for his subject: a story of "romance, drama, tragedy and tyranny" that is, of course, still unfolding.

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The Western paradox: A conservation reader. By Bernard DeVoto; edited by Douglas Brinkley and Patricia Nelson Limerick. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. 552 pp. ISBN: 0-300-08423-4 (paperback). US $18.95.

This book, a selected compilation of historian Bernard DeVoto's essays on the American West, is a record of his efforts, through his writing, to save the West from ongoing exploitation by outsiders and locals alike. It comprises 10 essays originally published in Harper's Magazine, and an unfinished conservation manifesto, The western paradox, never before published. An ardent conservationist throughout his life, DeVoto blithely skewered all those whom he saw as squandering the West's rich natural resources solely for short-term financial gain. This included not only the federal government, mining and timber industries and wealthy Eastern capitalists, but also Westerners themselves, whom DeVoto saw as active participants in their own decline. As stated by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in the foreword, DeVoto's "...arguments, insights and passion are as relevant and urgent today as they were when he first put them on paper."

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The following two books are available from:

(in North and South America, east and southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand:)
The University of California Press
c/o California/Princeton Fulfillment Services
1445 Lower Ferry Road
Ewing, NJ 08618
(in UK, Europe, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Africa, the Middle East, or countries in the Former Soviet Union)
The University of California Press
c/o John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Distribution Centre
1 Oldlands Way
Bognor Regis, West Sussex,
PO22 9SA

Mayo ethnobotany. By David Yetman and Thomas R. Van Devender. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002. 372 pp. ISBN: 0-520-22721-2 (cloth). US $48.00.

This ethnobotany concerns the indigenous Mayo people of northwestern Mexico. In the areas of southern Sonora and Sinaloa inhabited by the Mayo, the desert merges into subtropical forest, creating a remarkable degree of biodiversity. Both the culture of the Mayo and the biodiversity upon which it depends are increasingly under pressure from development and large-scale agriculture, however, and are in danger of being lost. Authors Yetman and Van Devender set out to preserve as much as they can of this culture's ethnobotanical knowledge. The first part of the book describes the vegetation, climate and geography of the region; it also outlines the history of the Mayo and discusses their language, culture and plant use. The second half of the book comprises an extensively annotated list of plants, elaborating on the authors' findings, gathered over a period of almost 10 years, on how these plants are used by the Mayo. A valuable record of a way of life and a body of knowledge that are rapidly disappearing.

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Cacti: Biology and uses. Edited by Park S. Nobel. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002. 290 pp. ISBN: 0-520-23157-0 (cloth). US $65.00.

Although the 1,600-odd species of the Cactaceae family are native to the New World, their utility has caused them to be cultivated world-wide. Not only do cacti easily tolerate aridity and poor soils, they are also a rich source of fruit, animal forage and fodder, and a broad variety of other products ranging from dyes to building materials. For these reasons, biological and agronomic interest in this plant family has soared in recent years, making a "current, synthetic, widely ranging reference" about them greatly to be desired. This book intends to be such a reference. Written by a group of experts from around the world, it covers both the biology of cacti and their uses. Individual chapters focus on cactus evolution, shoot morphology and cellular characteristics, water and nutrient uptake, environmental adaptations, reproduction strategies, role as wild animal food source, conservation issues, and ancient uses. Further chapters focus specifically on opuntia and on columnar cacti, on raising opuntias for forage and fodder, and on other uses of these highly useful cacti. Finally, the constraints on these uses caused by pests and diseases, and the expansion of such uses through breeding and biotechnology, are also covered. Extensive references encourage further exploration of these topics, making this a book that should appeal to a broad audience ranging from ecologists and agronomists to consumers and cacti enthusiasts alike.

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The following three books are available from:

The University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Ave., Suite 103
Tucson, AZ 85719

Ranching, endangered species, and urbanization in the Southwest: Species of capital. By Nathan F. Sayre. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 2002. 278 pp. ISBN: 0-8165-2158-1 (cloth). US$ 48.00.

In recent times, encounters among ranchers and environmentalists in the American West have tended to be increasingly polarized, bitter and simplistic. The unfortunate results are that land management and species restoration efforts are often rendered completely ineffective. This book presents a case study of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Reserve, located in the Altar Valley southwest of Tucson, Arizona. Established in 1985 amid controversy that still lingers, the reserve's purpose was to restore and provide habitat for the endangered masked bobwhite quail. The adversarial positions taken by the ranching and environmental communities regarding the Reserve have since transformed into a largely symbolic battle. Regrettably, this has obscured the actual details of land management on the preserve--details which might in fact inform the public debate in a useful way. The aim of this study is to defuse this battle by presenting the historical facts of the situation. After exploring the history of the quail, the history of the original Buenos Aires Ranch and the surrounding valley, and the history of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge from its creation to the present, the author turns to the issue of public use on the refuge and addresses the conflict over the Buenos Aires directly: "The Buenos Aires has helped drive a wedge between ranchers and environmentalists--perhaps the only coalition capable of containing sprawl and achieving long-term, large-scale conservation in the region. This need not have been the case, and it need no longer be the case."

Columnar cacti and their mutualists: Evolution, ecology, and conservation. Edited by Theodore H. Fleming and Alfonso Valiente-Banuet. Tucson: U. of Arizona Press, 2002. 371 pp. ISBN: 0-8165-2204-9. US$ 65.00.

Columnar cacti are found throughout the New World tropics and subtropics. Although the saguaro cactus of the Sonoran Desert is probably the most widely known exemplar, it is only one of 170 species of columnar cactus ranging from the American Southwest to northern South America and the West Indies. Many of these species are dominant in their ecosystems, comprising an important source of food and/or shelter to animals ranging from fruit flies to birds and bats, to humans. In turn, some of these animals--especially bats--play an essential role as pollinators of the cactus. Thus, an up-to-date and thorough understanding of the evolution and ecology of these cacti and their mutualists is essential to conservation efforts aimed at preserving arid ecosystems in the Neotropics and subtropics. This book, resulting from a conference held in Tehuacan City, Puebla, Mexico, June 28-July 3 1998, comprises 17 chapters written by specialists from the U.S., Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela. It first summarizes the current state of knowledge of columnar cacti and their mutualists. It next explores humans' roles in exploiting these plants, and details bat-plant interactions and their influence on diversity and ecological specialization within both groups. Finally, it makes specific recommendations towards maintaining fully functional arid ecosystems in the New World regions where these cacti are found. Each chapter concludes with a summary in both English and Spanish, as well as extensive references.

* * *

Floods, droughts, and climate change. By Michael Collier and Robert H. Webb. Tucson: U. of Arizona Press, 2002. 160 pp. ISBN: 0-8165-2250-2 (paperback). US$ 17.95.

Floods and droughts are among the most devastating and catastrophic weather events that exist. Long regarded as isolated or "aberrant" events, our growing understanding of climate as a variable phenomenon provides increasing evidence that floods and droughts are, instead, "phenomena connected on a worldwide scale." It is in this broad context that this book is written. It presents concepts of global weather, frames these concepts in the longer-term context of climate, and explores how patterns of climate may evolve through time. As a result, it shows that floods and droughts "are often related events driven by the same forces that shape the oceans and the entire atmosphere." Written in accessible language that assumes no previous knowledge of climate processes, this volume offers a straightforward scientific account of weather processes that can help the reader better understand the causes of climate variability and its consequences for our lives.

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