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Forgotten Grasslands of the South is the study of one of the biologically richest and most endangered ecosystems in North America. In a seamless blend of science and personal observation, renowned ecologist Reed Noss explains the natural history of southern grasslands, their origin and history, and the physical determinants of grassland distribution, including ecology, soils, landform, and hydrology. In addition to offering fascinating new information about these little-studied ecosystems, Noss demonstrates how natural history is central to the practice of conservation. Although theory and experimentation have recently dominated the field of ecology, ecologists are coming to realise how these distinct approaches are not divergent but complementary, and that pursuing them together can bring greater knowledge and understanding of how the natural world works and how we can best conserve it. This long-awaited work sets a new standard for scientific literature and is essential reading for those who study and work to conserve the grasslands of the South as well as for everyone who is fascinated by the natural world.
Foreword by Edward O. Wilson
Chapter 1: Natural History of a Forgotten American Grassland
Natural History for Conservation
Grasslands in the South?
What and Where are Southern Grasslands?
The Grasslands Considered in this Book
Chapter 2: Origin and History
A General Model
Geology, Physiography, and Pre-Neogene History
Neogene and Quaternary History
Disjunctions and the Gulf Coastal Corridor
Human History in the South, as It Relates to Grasslands
Chapter 3: Biological Hotspots and Endangered Ecosystems
Discovering Lost Worlds
Centers of Endemism in the South
Peripherals and Disjuncts
Species Richness in Southern Grasslands
People Care About Diversity, Endemism, and Disjunctions
The Decline of Southern Grasslands
Chapter 4: Physical Factors: Rock, Soil, Landform, Water, and Wind
The Purpose of My Journeys
Rock, Soil, and Landform
Wind, Storms, and Sea-Level Rise
Chapter 5: Fire, Big Animals, and Interactions
Bottom-up, Top-down, and Sideways
Interaction of Fire and Hydrology
The Enigmatic Canebrakes
Chapter 6. The Future of Southern Grasslands: Outline of a Strategy
A Conservation Strategy for Southern Grasslands
Examples of Restoration Projects
About the Author
Reed F. Noss is Provost's Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Central Florida, former editor-in-chief of Conservation Biology, and past president of the Society for Conservation Biology.
"Here's more love being poured on the glorious and endangered landscapes of the South, this time on the grasslands and this time by a man who knows more than anybody about them. A scientist turned writer, Reed Noss is a marvelous guide to what has been lost and what we still have. You're in great hands with this splendid book."
- Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
"Using a combination of personal narrative, ecological science, and old-fashioned natural history, Reed Noss brings the southern grasslands to life in this eloquent and passionate defense of one of the world's most endangered ecosystems. Noss argues persuasively that humans will only protect the nature we know, and this authoritative book goes a long way toward introducing readers to this biologically rich, once abundant and now rare natural community."
- Mark V. Barrow, author of Nature's Ghosts
"Reed Noss provides readers with a thought-provoking account of his journeys of discovery and inquiry through the little-known, rapidly vanishing grasslands of the American South. He draws on his tremendous experience in global conservation to reflect on the challenges of preserving these marvelous and beautiful places, but does so in a way that transcends geography and makes them a case study in the challenge of preserving nature worldwide."
- Robert K. Peet, Professor of Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"What do passenger pigeons have to do with canebreaks, or red pandas in Tennessee with the history of North America? Let this distinguished elder of conservation biology kindle your interest in the history, natural history, and conservation of this unexpectedly diverse, dynamic, and improbable set of habitats: the grasslands of the American South. No reader will ever forget, or underestimate, these grasslands again."
- Don Waller, John T. Curtis Professor of Botany, University of Wisconsin–Madison
"Noss's new book [is] [...] in many ways his magnum opus [...] will prove to be an instant classic on several levels. As a piece of natural history writing it is unparalleled in its depth and scope [...] a rich brew of the most important theories in ecology, plant ecology, conservation biology, biogeography and related sciences.. I learned so much on every page [...] "
- Eric Dinerstein, Vice President and Lead Scientist, Conservation Science Program
"Noss has spent years exploring and studying these grasslands and is aptly qualifi ed to serve as a clearvoiced ambassador of these criticallythreatened habitats. While giving hope, he outlines a way to move forward by persuasively arguing that humans will only protect that which we are familiar with and endeared to."
- Wildlife Mississippi