Mangroves and Halophytes: Restoration and Utilization, edited by Helmut Lieth, Maxímo García Sucre, and Brigitte Herzog. Springer Verlag, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2008, hardcover/acid-free paper, lvi + 158 pp. €106.95. Illustr. 75 colour plates. Index. ISBN 978-1-4020-6719-8.
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This book is the 43rd in the series "Tasks for Vegetation Science," whose general editor is H. Lieth of the University of Osnabrück, Germany. Lieth is the author of the preface-introduction, in which he explains that the book is de facto an anthology of the papers presented at seminars in Caracas and several German universities. He stresses that this book shows the geographic broadening of the scope of interest of the International Society of Halophytes Utilization (ISHU) and departs from the usual concentration on Europe and North America.
A second prologue of the volume is by M. Garcia Sucre, who describes the expectations from the workshop(s) with regard to the utilization of mangroves and halophytes in Venezuela (he is part of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research [IVIC], in Caracas), in the coastal regions, and for inland agriculture on saline salts. In Venezuela, as in several other regions, mangroves have lost ground, and rehabilitation is an important effort. The workshops fall under the aegis of several projects that are part of the Misión Ciencia, which aims at promoting science development focused on applied problems.
The volume stresses coastal pollution and upland soil salinization, drawing on half a century experience in Venezuela. There is no general bibliography, but each paper provides a list of references, occasionally mentioning several titles from the same author(s), showing both the high specialization of the paper and/or the paucity of existing literature on the subject.
The fourteen papers are from seventeen contributors grouped into three parts: general aspects, saline ecosystems in Venezuela, and experimental systems. The reader who is interested in the topic, without being a specialist, will find the papers by Lieth in part I very informative, since use of halophytes, the link with the global water crisis (listed in a paper by Koyro and Lieth), and sustainability are discussed here, and the potential for saltwater irrigation in the Mediterranean region is examined, not on the short term, but with sustainability in mind. Acceptance of salinity by vegetation seems to be far higher than can generally be concluded by literature on the subject. If climate can influence phytoresponse, so can appropriate management. Salt tolerance is also approached in a paper by Koyro et al., who discuss the impact on biomass production in their paper (part III). Temperature influence is considered by Sànchez-Arias et al. (also in two papers of part III) for some specific cases.
Part II includes new approaches, methods, and techniques, an insight on new approaches to halophytes research, development of genomics, and the use of satellite remote sensing for ecosystems analysis.
Lieth and Herzog propose (part II) a series of research projects into such sustainable utilization of halophytes in Venezuela, and, based on observations in a national park and a refuge, Barreto provides a diagnosis about the state of mangroves in Venezuela. The coast has been strongly affected by human presence, not the least of which is the presence of tourists, and mangroves have suffered greatly. The situation has been exacerbated by severe droughts (1991–93) that are not infrequent and are of variable duration.
In a third paper, Sànchez-Arias envisages the role that can/could be played by communities in the use of halophytes and the creation of "oases" of mangroves. Restoration of the mangrove forest can be part of a landscape design (Pannier). A novel idea by Pannier about the implant of mangroves on artificial islands is a challenging thought; dredging of the canal at the entrance of Lake Maracaibo created islands that remained practically uninhabited and that offered terrain that could and was colonized by mangroves.
The energy problem is not forgotten, as Hoek suggests that salty lands and brackish waters are favourable for the growth of halophytic or halinic-tolerant biomass. A demonstration area of some 1000 ha is under consideration under the banner of an OASE-sponsored project.
Part III papers represent 50% of the workshop's contributions. mostly experiments within halophytic ecosystems. Coastal management, tourism, energy production, and revegetation are visited here.
One will agree with the text on the back cover that the book is a useful reference source for researchers working on saline ecosystems and halophytes holding economic promise. The superb coloured illustrations of this elegantly presented volume cover topics of all three parts. By today's standards, the book is priced in the upper middle range, which is not surprising considering the inclusion of some 75 coloured plates.
Roger H. Charlier
Free University of Brussels (VUB)