Lake Baikal: Evolution and Diversity

Edited by O.M. Kozhova and L.R. Izmest’eva
447 pp., 1998
Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISBN 90-5782-001-3
Price – Dutch Guilders 280.00 / US $156.00

Lake Baikal has fascinated limnologists for more than 150 years. It is a highly remarkable lake in terms of its size, depth, and most importantly its age, estimated at 30 million years or more. Formal research studies on the lake began in the mid 1800s and continued into the 1900s. Because these studies were conducted largely by the Russian scientific community, it was not until 1963 when M. Kozhov’s seminal book “Lake Baikal and its Life” was published that the larger scientific world became aware of this fascinating lake. At that time, the lake was characterized as a “museum of living antiquities” and its basic limnological and geological features described. Since then, the Russian research community has continued to investigate this highly fascinating lake, again focusing much of its attention on its unique flora and fauna. Their accomplishments have been remarkable.

This book is described as the second addition to Kozhov (1963). It is modeled on the first edition, with the addition of the wealth of studies conducted in the intervening years and under challenging circumstances. This synthesis has been accomplished under the diligent editorship of Professor O.M. Kozhava, (Mikhail Kozhov’s daughter), and Dr. L. Izmest’eva, (his granddaughter). Like its predecessor, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the general limnological features of Lake Baikal, its major plant and animal species, and a broad description of the benthic and pelagic communities. It also summarizes the geological history of the lake. A new addition is the final chapter which briefly discusses the economic use of the lake and some of the anthropogenic impacts which are now affecting this important ecosystem. There is an extensive number of cited references. The book concludes with a series of appendices which list the major species in the lake and their habitats.

This book has several strengths. First, it provides a broad synthesis of the major limnological features of the lake with a focus on its geology, physical limnology and species diversity. In doing so, it summarizes the highlights of hundreds of publications, many of which are in Russian and not readily accessible to the broader scientific community. Second, the book is well illustrated with a vast number of photographs, figures and tables. Thus, much more information is provided than in the text alone. This also makes the book much more readable to the non-specialist in the various subject matters covered. While the book could have benefited from some additional technical editing, it is generally clear in its meaning and well written. It is most certainly interesting and informative.

In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of studies on Lake Baikal. Many studies involve international collaborations and include the latest techniques in limnological research. This book provides a superb background for the researcher interested in developing new collaborations with the Russian research community. Furthermore, it will serve as an excellent complement to a future book which will focus more heavily on factors affecting lake productivity, diversity, and, most crucially, threats to the well-being of this lake. The enthusiasm and love that Kozhova, Izmest’eva and their colleagues hold for Lake Baikal emerges clearly throughout Lake Baikal – Evolution and Diversity. This book is a monument to their collective accomplishments and an inspiration to future researchers. Professor Kozhov would be proud.

Marlene S. Evans
National Water Research Institute

Nutrient cycling and retention in natural and constructed wetlands

Edited by J. Vymazal
198 pp., 1999, Backhuys Publishers, Leiden
ISBN 90-5782-022-6
Price – Dutch Guilders 1100 / US $61.00

This book emanated from a workshop (of the same name) held in TÍeboÁ, Czech Republic, in 1997. According to the editor’s preface, the workshop covered the topics of “nutrient cycling in natural and constructed wetlands, carbon transformations in wetlands, retention mechanisms and wetlands capacity, loading rates, use of constructed wetlands for various types of wastewater, retention of nutrients by macrophytes and water cycles and budgets”. The workshop was planned to provide an opportunity of discussion between scientists working on constructed wetlands and those working on natural wetlands. While the editor deemed the workshop “useful and … very fruitful”, the resulting compilation of 16 papers reads more like a series of unrelated case studies rather than a meaningful comparison of processes between the two types of systems as suggested by the title. For example, there is virtually no cross referencing within the book that would suggest substantial interaction at the workshop. Twelve of the contributions deal with various parameters and characteristics of constructed wetlands while only two papers on natural wetland systems are included. Appearing out of place, two papers on nitrogen and metals in fishponds are included.

Though somewhat disappointing due to the lack of cross-integration between natural and constructed wetland systems, the book does offer useful information regarding pros and cons of various strategies (constructed and natural) for improving downstream water quality. The editor’s own contributions provide good overviews of the biogeochemistry of nitrogen and phosphorus in wetland ecosystems. There are several good papers dealing with constructed wetland design, including advantages and disadvantages of horizontal and vertical flow wetlands. One comparative paper provides a nice evaluation of the inability of a natural alluvial wetland to retain nutrients as efficiently as wastewater treatment systems. The remaining papers for the most part are “snap shot” views of various wetland systems with limited general utility to researchers interested in nutrient cycling and retention in wetlands. Nevertheless, the book does reflect the wealth of practical experience among the contributors as a whole and across the many different wetland systems and will thus prove most useful to students, engineers and scientists who may be just entering the field.

Dave Hambright
Israel Oceanographic & Limnological Research

Forgotten Waters: Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems in Africa Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development

Caroly A. Shumway
168 pp., 1999
Published by The Biodiversity Support Program
Boston University
New England Aquarium
and US Agency for International Development
ISBN 87387-109-X
Price $5.00 US

This publication collates an immense amount of useful information in a very readable way, illustrated with black and white photographs. The nine chapters consider the value of Africa’s wetlands, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and the urgent need to support their conservation, followed by an overview of important freshwater and inshore marine habitats, with summary maps. Various treats – ranging from introductions to exotics, overfishing, to land use changes, climatic and synergistic effects – are then examined. Based on the author’s considerable conservation experience she then considers what can be done – dealing with matters such as the selection of sites for conservation, policies, community involvement, gaps in knowledge and research, criteria for establishment of reserves and catchment management. Case studies from lakes in many parts of Africa consider the why?, where?, and how? for conservation and sustainable development of Africa’s aquatic biodiversity. There is a good bibliography, and annexes include a list of regional initiatives; also one on the huge loss of endemic fishes from East Africa’s Lake Victoria.

A very useful document for all concerned with biodiversity conservation in African waters.

Information and/or copies available from:

Dr. C. Shumway
Departments of Conservation and Research
New England Aquarium
Central Wharf, Boston, MA
USA 02110-3399
Rosemary Lowe-McConnell
Streatwick, Great Britain