Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#StevesLibrary: What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?

As many regular readers of my blog will know, I like to read books when commuting on trains to and from London (this was particularly the case when studying at Imperial College London). One of the many books that helped to keep me sane on the busy commutes was Tony Juniper’s What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?, which was a very apt book to read whilst completing a Masters in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation. The book is very much what you would expect, information and examples highlighting humankind’s contribution to the degradation of the natural world and the ways in which we are purposefully helping to restore the balance. 

One of the focusses of the book is the experiment Biosphere 2, which I hadn’t heard of before. If you’re not aware of Biosphere 2 either, it was originally built to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems and their ability to support and maintain human life in outer space. The enclosed system had seven bio-environments from jungle to mangroves and acted as a habitat for a team of eight people for two years. The experiment went through a number of tough times with trying to balance levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen as well as moisture and humidity. As you can imagine, with this experiment acting as a metaphor for our planet it helps to sets the tone of the book. 

In Juniper’s book, we go on a global journey from the wetlands of the UK and how the underlying peat shrink when drained then release carbon as it dries (such is the case at Wicken Fen). From here the reader travels to cities that are prone to flooding due to storm surges and explains how some habitat features such as mangrove swamps or coral beds, can absorb and soften the blow of a storm or a tsunami. There is a constant comparison of between the damage caused to natural systems and the benefits they provide in ecosystems services.

There is also evidence and information of the benefits in terms of oxygen production, be it trees or phytoplankton. It critically important that we work to save these environments as they provide critical resources that we depend on to survive. I expected a number of depressing stories about the way we as a species have pillaged the planet but each story is balanced with a positive piece of research that helps to negate the negative effects.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about what they can do to save the planet and how they can reduce their impacts on the natural world.

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