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The Guiana Shield is an ancient geological region located in the northern part of South America, covering an area of 2 million square kilometres. Despite its hostile environment, it is home to many unusual and highly specialized plants and animals, which constitute a rich area of biodiversity. This book provides a comprehensive and detailed review of the ecology, biology and natural history of the forests of the area. Chapters cover geology, climate, hydrology, soils, nutrient cycling, plant-animal interactions, archaeology, colonization and land-use history, plant distributions and life-history attributes, forest dynamics and conservation and management of flora and fauna. The book highlights the connections between the socio-economic, biological and physical attributes of these forests. It challenges conventional wisdoms concerning tropical forest diversity and function, and argues that conservation and sustainable development approaches should be tailored to the region.