Synopses & Reviews
The reader is provided with a comprehensive account of a pre- and post-fire study in a South African mountain fynbos ecosystem. It addresses the interaction between climate and structural features of the vegetation as it determines the incidence and behaviour of fire. The composition and structure of vegetation, the effects of fire on this as well as the responses of the individual species are examined. The responses of small mammals and ants are also covered, with focus on the consequences for the regenerating vegetation. Finally, it analyses the effects of fire on the water and mineral nutrient balance of the system, and in so doing it addresses questions on the sustainability of fire management in fynbos ecosystems. Throughout the book, emphasis is placed on the comparison with other Mediterranean-type ecosystems.
Ecologists are increasingly being drawn into the task of addressing problems of environmental degradation. They are expected to find solutions that will lead to sustainable resource use throughout the world. In doing so, the robustness of the science becomes increasingly important, and the problem of extrapolating the results of research conducted within what is usually a relatively limited geographical scope is increasingly highlighted. One approach to developing a globally robust ecology involves more or less formal intercontinental comparative studies, usually focused on the question of ecological convergence. These studies are directed at testing the prediction that similar physical and other environmental factors in different parts of the world, through their selective influences, will give rise to ecosystems which share com- mon structural and functional features. Should this be true, the predictive power of ecology developed within such a framework should be sufficient to solve similar problems elsewhere in such biomes. There is a long history of such an approach in mediterranean- type ecosystems, documented in a series of volumes and their accompanying scientific papers beginning with that of Di Castri and Mooney (1973).