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British Wildlife is the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiast and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Published eight times a year, British Wildlife bridges the gap between popular writing and scientific literature through a combination of long-form articles, regular columns and reports, book reviews and letters.

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Good Reads  Conservation & Biodiversity  Conservation & Biodiversity: General

Cornerstones Wild Forces That Can Change Our World

New SPECIAL OFFER
By: Benedict Macdonald(Author)
256 pages, no illustrations
NHBS
2020 Wainwright Prize winner Benedict Macdonald profiles nine groups of animals and plants that might stem the tide of biodiversity loss in Britain.
Cornerstones
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  • Cornerstones ISBN: 9781472971609 Hardback Jul 2022 In stock
    £13.99 £17.99
    #254636
Price: £13.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Not all species and habitats are created equal. And as we face the Sixth Mass Extinction, not all will survive. But if some crucial wild forces cannot be saved, the wildlife of our world as we know it will collapse. Not generally or abstractly, but right here, in our cherished home: the British Isles.

From familiar earthworms and honey-bees to long-lost natives like beavers and boars, nine wild forces hold the key to the future of our island: its wildlife, its soils, its wilderness, and its people.

How do beavers craft wetlands, save fish and toads, encourage endangered butterflies, and stop rivers from flooding? Why are wild boar the best butterfly conservationists of all? How do mushrooms allow trees to talk? How do oaks, as they die, create more life than anything alive? And what really happens when honey bees finally go extinct?

Cornerstones explores nine vital wild forces that shape Britain like no other and tells the story of their survival from their perspective. Never again will you pass an ancient willow without thanking it. Never again will fishers curse the beavers that create their fish stocks. Cornerstones will transform your gratitude to the natural world forever as you recognise the cornerstone forces that support the wild lives we all love and appreciate.

Contents

Introduction
Chapter one - Boar
Chapter two - Birds of Prey
Chapter three - Beaver
Chapter four - Whales
Chapter five - Bees
Chapter six - Cattle and Horses
Chapter seven - Trees
Chapter eight - Lynxes and Wolves
Chapter nine - Humans

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Thought provoking
    By Keith 23 Sep 2022 Written for Hardback
    Benedict Macdonald’s first book Rebirding appeared in 2019, and in that he championed the concept of rewilding the land on a grand scale to create “big” habitats to allow our struggling birds to thrive. If he could have his way, we would see major investments in saving habitats so that much of the countryside could be like a tablecloth of wildlife rather than the tatty patchwork quilt that we have today. That book won him the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation. Now, In Cornerstones he takes another popular concept and promotes it with passion. That concept is to support “cornerstone species” that are key to the existence of others and whose actions create the ideal habitats for wildlife to flourish.

    So what are the cornerstone species under consideration? Several will be very familiar such as beavers, which are ecosystem engineers, building dams and felling trees and effectively creating diverse wetland habitats for free. They were here 400 years ago until demand for their pelts saw them become extinct. To find wolves in the UK you have to look back a bit further to about 500 years, and for the lynx maybe 1400 years. They were all here – as were Goshawks. The case for getting them back is strong because they all have a significant impact on the other species around them and importantly, they do it for free! Benedict Macdonald looks at each species and puts their case succinctly and powerfully.

    Birds feature prominently in the second chapter that reviews the options for reintroducing cornerstone birds of prey. The high-profile work on bringing back White-tailed Eagles is familiar to most of us, while the unofficial reintroduction of the Goshawk through accidental (or perhaps intentional) releases has happened quietly. Benedict Macdonald’s skill is in painting a big picture and communicating the benefits for all to see. As with any big picture, details can be the victim and it is easy to make statements that those working on the detail simply don’t recognise. For example, in this chapter, he says that in the New Forest most of the Hawfinches roost within 200 m of active Goshawk nests. Really? I fact-checked that with the New Forest Hawfinch experts, and although there are many Goshawks, this claimed linkage simply does not exist. Maybe someone misinformed Benedict Macdonald when he researched the book – but as an author myself, I know how easy it is to take an idea and own it without going back to the source and checking you have interpreted the information correctly. Each page in this book contains many claims, often without references, and I don’t doubt that the majority are correct, but even with big picture concepts, fact-checking is now easier than ever before, and readers are beginning to expect it when books are making claims.

    This book is very timely as many in the world of conservation support the idea of bringing back iconic species and habitats. Indeed the Government said it supported much of this too, but in June slashed its planned support from £800 million per year to £50 million over three years. That is the equivalent of this 256-page book being reduced to just five pages! However, the cornerstone species concept still has its strengths and if any of this book’s suggestions are to succeed it will be ambitious private individuals who will make it happen rather than Government – as with just about everything else these days. Let’s hope it succeeds in changing minds and supporting those who already see cornerstone species as a vital part of our biodiversity.
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Biography

Benedict Macdonald is a television producer, award-winning nature writer and conservationist. Having studied wildlife since a very early age, he pursued a career in natural history film-making and has worked on series including The One Show, Springwatch, The Hunt and as a field director for the Emmy-award winning Our Planet; a conservation series narrated by Sir David Attenborough, which premiered on Netflix in 2019. Since then, Ben has worked as a producer on international wildlife shows for Apple (Tiny Worlds, Earth at Night) and Disney.

As a writer, his first book, Rebirding, highlighted the need for mass-scale nature restoration across the UK, and was the winner of the Richard Jefferies Prize & inaugural winner of the Wainwright Conservation Prize 2020. His second book, Orchard: A Year in England's Eden, co-written with Nicholas Gates, was published by Harper Collins in August 2020.

As a conservationist, Ben has remained at the forefront of public discourse on rewilding, nature restoration, regenerative farming and the widespread reintroduction of lost species to the UK. He is affiliated to a number of organisations including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Beaver Trust, Rewilding Britain and his own organisation, Restore. Ben studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and lives & works in Bristol.

New SPECIAL OFFER
By: Benedict Macdonald(Author)
256 pages, no illustrations
NHBS
2020 Wainwright Prize winner Benedict Macdonald profiles nine groups of animals and plants that might stem the tide of biodiversity loss in Britain.
Media reviews

"[...] The author’s great strength is in painting vivid pictures, helping us to imagine a possible future where we have more self-willed, wilder land [...] If there is a weakness it is that we are expected to take a lot on trust. Few references are cited, and the book skips rapidly from one assertion to the  next without dwelling on the evidence behind them. [...] There are risks in overstretching. Readers may start to question other aspects of the book for which they have less knowledge. I found myself doing just that at times. True, this is one person’s view of what a wilder future might look like, and it is a popular account rather than an academic treatise; perhaps, then, a little poetic licence is understandable. But, as the author reminds us, overblown claims by influential landowners are the bane of those seeking to move forward with contentious species reintroductions. The final three chapters were, for me, the most compelling and thought-provoking. The discussion of trees includes the most convincing and accessible account I have read as to why self-willed regeneration is preferable to planting. Here, at least, I found myself swept along by enthusiasm rather than fretting too much about the detail.[...]"
– Ian Carter, British Wildlife 33(8), August 2022

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