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Forests and  Global ChangeDavid A Coomes, David F R P Burslem and William D Simonson (Eds)

Cambridge University Press, £35.00

It is now well-known that the forests of the world are affected by changes in climate. Each of the 15 chapters of Forests and Global Change are written by authors who presented data to an Ecological Society symposium.

The first of three parts is on forest dynamics and global change, the second on species traits and responses to changing resource availability, and the third on detecting and modelling global change.
Several forest types are covered, including tropical rainforest, temperate forests, Mediterranean forests and dry forests. Climate changes affect all forest types, and there are useful comparisons between different forests.

A balance of observational and experimental work is presented to predict the factors of influence for the future. Shifts in rainfall patterns are predicted for the tropics and are likely to have unforeseen consequences. Increases in extreme weather events such as droughts and intense precipitation are already affecting forests.

Many other human induced environmental factors are discussed, such as air pollution, the effect of introduced species and the results of selective logging. There are a number of permanent forest plots in both temperate and tropical forests and it is clear that these are the source of many ongoing observations about climate change, such as the increasing biomass in some places owing to carbon fertilisation. Carbon mass balance studies show that tropical forests are still acting as a carbon sink, but for how much longer is uncertain.

Overall, one is left with the impression of how fragile forests are and the serious dangers to them from a changing climate. This is an important book for ecologists and anyone who is interested in or teaching about the effects of climate change. Some good suggestions for further research are made and there is a useful index of the many topics addressed.

Professor Sir Ghillean Prance CBiol FSB