The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History

Overview

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 decertified 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...

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Overview

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 decertified 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.

About the Author:
T. Grove, a geographer, is emeritus fellow of Downing College, Cambridge. Oliver Rackham, a botanist in the department of forestry, is a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Interesting and thought-provoking chapters. . . The book is profusely illustrated with photographs. . . An impressive synthesis on an important topic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300100556
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 6
1 Introduction: Ruined Landscapes and the Question of Desertification 8
2 Present Climate and Weather 24
3 Geology and Geomorphology: the Dynamics of a Restless Region 37
4 Plant Life: the Dramatis Personae of Historical Ecology 45
5 Aspects of Human History 72
6 Cultivation Terraces 107
7 Climate in the Last 150 Years: the Period of Instrumental Measurements 119
8 The Little Ice Age: Extreme Weather in Historic Times 130
9 Climate in Early Historic and Prehistoric Times 141
10 Vegetation in Prehistory 151
11 Natural Vegetation in Historic Times 167
12 Mediterranean Savanna: Trees without Forests 190
13 Fire: Misfortune or Adaptation? 217
14 Current Erosion and its Measurement 241
15 Badlands 271
16 Erosion History and Prehistory: Climate, Weather or Man-Made? 288
17 Euro-Deserts and Karst 312
18 Deltas and Soft Coasts 328
19 Over-Use of Ground-Water 351
20 Desertification or Change: what to do about it? 361
Bibliography 366
Index 372
Picture Credits 384
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