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Mediterranean Europe – southern Portugal and Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Greece, and the Mediterranean islands – is often interpreted as a "Lost Eden," once verdant and fertile, then progressively degraded and desertified by human mismanagement and the ignorance and folly of successive civilizations. In this engaging book, two distinguished scholars challenge this pessimistic view.
A. T. Grove and Oliver Rackham trace the evolution of climate and vegetation in southern Europe from prehistoric times to the present. They point out that since the climate has usually been unstable there, plant cover has had to accommodate to its extremes and has therefore become resilient under different patterns of human activity. They show that deluges, a major factor in promoting erosion and shaping valley floors and deltas, were more frequent during times of advancing glaciers than they are now. They assess the nature and functioning of agricultural terraces, the Mediterranean savanna, and karsts, badlands, and other desert-like landscapes. Finally, they point to the real threats to Mediterranean landscapes in the recent past and the immediate future: not only coastal development, but also bulldozing, excessive irrigation, and the consequences of depopulation in the interior.
A.T. Grove, a geographer, is emeritus fellow of Downing College, Cambridge. The late Oliver Rackham, a botanist in the department of forestry, was a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
"Grove and Rackham trace climate, vegetation and landscape in Mediterranean Europe from prehistoric to present times in the course of 20 profusely illustrated chapters [...] This resource provides thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in Mediterranean history, ecology and landscape."
– Katherine Waser, Aridlands
"The basic variables of climate change, geology and geomorphology, vegetation patterns, fire, and human history are brought together in 20 interesting and thought-provoking chapters. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs, maps, graphs, and charts [...] An impressive synthesis on an important topic."
"An excellent book [...] I strongly recommend it not only to anyone with an interest in Mediterranean landscapes, ecology or history, but also to all students and researchers in the field of landscape and ecological history [...] Not only should it find a place on the shelves of all academic libraries, but it deserves to be widely owned, read and enjoyed by all with an interest in the history of landscape."
– Earth Surface Processes & Landforms
"This is a beautiful book and in many ways an admirable one [...] The Nature of Mediterranean Europe is a considerable achievement, building on the accumulated experience and wisdom of two pre-eminent scholars [...] This book is broad and offers a variety of insights, accessible to almost anyone [...] It should be compulsory reading for every official and academic interested in landscape change and the development of land use policy for southern Europe. The book is near-impeccably produced and beautifully illustrated with abundant maps, drawings, and color photographs. It would grace – but be wasted on – any coffee-table."
"This well-written set of analytical essays looks at historical records, plant and animal evidence, and detailed fieldwork of the various aspects of the ecology of the region and derives a rigorously documented set of conclusions [...] Highly recommended for any ecology and environmental studies program or collection for both the rigor and approach of the studies."
"A thought-provoking and challenging scientific study, The Nature of Mediterranean Europe is a treasure-trove of information about Mediterranean ecology, geography and culture. It is well illustrated with colour photographs, diagrams and drawings, and will be of interest to all those concerned with the region's history and environment."
– Martin Hellicar, Global Dialogue
"The Nature of Mediterranean Europe places landscape ecology and the study of short-term climatic change at the center of any historical endeavor in the Mediterranean. This beautifully illustrated and clearly written book lays out an interdisciplinary canvas with rich possibilities for those scholars open-minded enough to take its lessons to heart."
– Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"All those undertaking research in southern Europe, leading field trips or taking their holidays there, will profit from reading this excellent study."
– Progress in Physical Geography
"Well written [...] up-to-date views of the Mediterranean environment [...] Will certainly be useful for many years as [a] reference book for students and researchers of the region."
– TRENDS in Ecology & Evolution