A good year for peak studies

Mountain Environments
September 6, 2002

The purpose of the new Prentice Hall ecogeography series is to provide second and third-year geography and environmental studies undergraduates with wide-ranging volumes on specific ecological regions at an affordable price. This volume achieves this goal and is particularly timely as 2002 has been designated International Year of the Mountains by the United Nations.

Mountains and hills over 1,000m in height cover more than a quarter of the Earth's land surface, directly support about 10 per cent of its population and provide water to about half of the earth's humans. They are also bastions of biodiversity and magnets for recreations.

This book, which is attractively presented with many clear line drawings and plates, reviews the nature of the physical and social environments of mountains and concentrates on three areas of concern: development, tourism and conservation.

It gives examples from a range of locations, including the Karakorams, Yemen, Atlas Mountains, European Alps and Thailand. There is a substantial bibliography and a good index. Case studies are given in a large number of boxes - many of them based on the author's own field experience. There are also lists of key points at the end of each chapter.

The book, and the series as a whole, provides a coherent human and environment focus - something that is sorely needed in an often-incoherent discipline. Above all, the subject matter is fascinating and the issues tackled are fundamentally important.

In recent years, there have been a number of books on mountain environments and societies and some notable surveys of the potential impacts of future climate changes. With the possible exception of the edited work by Bruno Messerli and Jack Ives, Mountains of the World: A Global Priority (1997), this is the only book that takes a global view in an integrated manner. For both its substance and its philosophy, it is to be welcomed.

Andrew Goudie is professor of geography, University of Oxford.

Mountain Environments

Author - Romola Parish
ISBN - 0 582 41911 5
Publisher - Prentice Hall
Price - £21.99
Pages - 348

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