Britain’s Habitats: A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland (Wildguides)
Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still, Andy Swash
Princeton University Press
This splendid new book from the Wildguides stable is something that has long been missing for many years, a book on the habitats of Britain and Ireland, what to find in them and when. The introduction discusses the ten main habitat types found in Britain and Ireland. It is interesting to note that across the whole of Britain and Ireland 30.8% of habitat is formed from ‘other habitats’ (arable, brownfield and orchard) and 40.5% grassland, of which 34% is improved. Look at the map on Page 8 and you will see instantly that this percentage is very different if we separate Britain from Ireland with a much greater percentage of grassland in Ireland. This may well account for the reduced diversity certainly in terms of birds, mammals, Lepidoptera and Odonata.
There follows a discussion on climate, topography and geology and their effect on habitat. Tellingly there is a discussion about man’s influence and also on climate change. Pages 16 & 17 feature a very informative and at times (where mankind has been involved) timeline of habitat development. Also discussed in detail is the natural process of succession, nothing to do with the Royal family but natural and man’s influences on changes to habitats over time. This informs the need to manage succession at times.
The bulk of the book is broken into the 10 major habitat types and these are further subdivided, as after all woodland can apply to 12 subcategories. Each subcategory is then looked at in detail. Each one starts with a brief description of the habitat types then goes on to discuss similar habitats, origins and development, conservation and what to look for. Separate text boxes look at distribution and extent of the habitats, how to recognise it and when to visit. Each section is beautifully illustraded with photographs of the key habitat features and crucially some of the wildlife to be found there.
At the end the habitat correspondence tables are of limited and interest and the list of species mentioned would have been better indexed but these are minor niggles. Overall this is a superb book and is for anyone who loves wildlife and discovering more about why they are seeing species where they do. It is truly a ‘field’ guide.