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This important and accessible book surveys the history and present condition of river systems across the United States, showing how human activities have impoverished our rivers and impaired the connections between river worlds and other ecosystems. Ellen Wohl begins by introducing the basic physical, chemical, and biological processes operating in rivers. She then addresses changes in rivers resulting from settlement and expansion, describes the growth of federal involvement in managing rivers, and examines the recent efforts to rehabilitate and conserve river ecosystems. In each chapter she focuses on a specific regional case study and describes what happens to a particular river organism--a bird, North America's largest salamander, the paddlefish, and the American alligator--when people interfere with natural processes.
Island of Grass tells the story of the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area, a 240-acre preserve surrounded by housing developments in Fort Collins, Colorado. This small grassland is a remnant of the once-vast prairies of the West that early European explorers and settlers described as seas of grass. Agricultural land use and urban expansion during the past two centuries have fragmented and altered these prairies. All that remains today are small islands. These remnants cannot support some of the larger animals that once roamed the prairie, but they continue to support a diverse array of plants and animals and can still teach us much about grassland ecology. Through her examinations of daily changes during walks across the Fromme Prairie over the course of a year, Ellen Wohl explores one of the more neglected ecosystems in North America, describing the geology, soils, climate, ecology, and natural history of the area, as well as providing glimpses into the lives of the plants, animals, and microbes inhabiting this landscape. Although small in size, pieces of preserved shortgrass prairie like the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area are rich, diverse, and accessible natural environments deserving of awareness, appreciation, and protection. Anyone concerned with the ecology and conservation of grasslands in general, the ecology and conservation of open space in urban areas, or the natural history of Colorado will be interested in this book.
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