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Indicator Plants: Using Plants to Evaluate the Environment is written by Dr Paul L. Smith with three sets of people in mind:
- Junior ecological consultants who want to improve their Phase 1 Habitat Surveys with botanical target notes useful in ecological assessment.
- Students of ecology who need to use plants to interpret the landscape around them and understand habitats in greater detail.
- Amateur naturalists and walkers who seek to enrich their experience of the countryside through a knowledge of plants.
Plants and their assemblages do not occur randomly in the environment. Their distribution is dictated by overarching environmental variables, which in many cases are well known. By knowing the species and something of its tolerances, the nature of the environment in which it is found can be deduced. Particularly useful examples are known as "indicator plants"; these are keys to a broader understanding of the ecosystem and form the subject of this practical guide.
Compiled from a range of published sources and from the author's personal experience, it is intended for use primarily in the lowland English countryside. Relevant published sources are cited in the tables and fully referenced at the end of the book. The appendices include a worked excercise to test the skills learnt in using Indicator Plants: Using Plants to Evaluate the Environment.
"A huge amount of ecological information can be obtained by noting the presence of particular plant species in a site. In order to gain that intelligence, however, the ability to reliably identify plants and to be familiar with their habitats is prerequisite. In countries such as the UK, where training in plant identification and plant ecology is at such a low level even in university courses, such expertise is difficult for those involved in environmental assessments to acquire. This work goes a long way to addressing that knowledge gap in a most pragmatic way, and is targeted at those charged with doing ‘‘Phase 1’’ habitat surveys, students, and also naturalists wishing to learn more about what plants tell them. [...] It is available in two editions, one with black and white and one with colour plates, but it is the coloured version that will be of most value to those unfamiliar with the plants and needing an identification aid. [...] it is nevertheless a most commendable achievement and deserves to be more widely known."
– David Hawksworth, Biodiversity and Conservation 25, November 2016