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UNDERSTANDING WETLANDS: FEN, BOG AND MARSH, 2003. Taylor & Francis, London, 296 pp. ISBN 0-415-25704-8.

Available from: Taylor & Francis


This is a book about understanding fens, bogs and marshes. It concentrates on habitat, vegetation and animals and human impact, and the interactions between them. It is intended as an introduction for universities and colleges, conservation organisations and the Environment Agency, and indeed for sixth-form and further education work. It is comprehensive for beginners, and should give a 'jumping off' point for more advanced students and researchers.

Those who find the book valuable should thank Mr T.R. Graham of the (then) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. Without his contract, I–who had seen other wetlands but properly studied only East Anglia and reeds–would not have realised there was no such book. I wanted it for that contract! So, several years later, here it is, for others who also want, in one book, a holistic view, and later than Tansley (1939).

All readers of this book probably know wetlands are a threatened habitat, but most probably do not know how little is being done to meet that threat. There is more lip-service than for, say, chalk grasslands, but where is the actual service? Barely half a dozen publishing on British conservation research; a score or two on any British wetland research; money for stopping abstraction, reversing drainage, preventing pollution and necessary management is noticeable by its absence (with few exceptions).

The need is great. Can any reader respond to that need?


Title page


Chapter 1, Introduction

Wetland Basics; Ideas on wetlands: fact and fable; The creations of the waters.

Chapter 2, Wetlands Matter

Introduction, and the World Charter for Nature; Values; Considerations of values; Wetland to dryland: the changing from fish and fowl to grain and vegetable; Wetland products.

Chapter 3, How Wetlands Work

Introduction; Integrating wetland processes; Wetland landscapes; Biodiversity.

Chapter 4, In Wetland Wilds

Continuities and discontinuities; Geomorphological, hydromorphic, and similar classifications; Vegetation classification; Wetlands in the landscape; Bog; Marsh;

Reedswamp; Fens; Tall herb and short herb communities; Grassland; Woodland.

Chapter 5, The Animals

Introduction; Invertebrates; Fish; Birds; Mammals; Reptiles; Amphibia; Micro-organisms and fungi.

Chapter 6, The Waters of the Wetlands

Water in the landscape; Soils and drainage; Vertical fluctuations; Sideways movement; Vegetation as an indicator of water regime; Case studies; Discussion.

Chapter 7, Chemical Types and Vegetation Types

Introduction; Chemical types in the landscape; Plants as indicators of nutrient regime; Case studies; Chemical impact.

Chapter 8, The power to purify

Principles and definitions; How fens, marshes, and reedswamps (natural and constructed wetland) act chemically; Purification; Buffer strips.

Chapter 9, Phragmites: A study in plant behaviour and human use

The plant unit; The seasonal cycle; The seedling and young plant; The advancing plant; Chemistry and competition; The water; The thatching reed; The maintaining of the stand; Conclusion.

Chapter 10, The silent battlefield: vegetation changes

Vegetation develops; Sallow (Salix cinerea) carr invasion; Carex paniculata and Phragmites australis; Galium aparine (goosegrass) in tall herb fen vegetation; The Schoenus nigricans community; Schoenus nigricans and Molinia caerulea; Schoenus nigricans and Cladium mariscus; Phragmites made sparse in three other vegetation types; Reedswamp invasion of open water; A native and an introduced grass in the Camargue, France; Phalaris arundinacea and Urtica dioica in flood meadows, River Luznise, Czech Republic; Typha spp. in North America; Cladium mariscoides and Typha jamaicense in the Everglades, Florida; Myrica gale, Cladium mariscus and the Keeper; Combined ills; Conclusions.

Chapter 11, Threats and losses, past and present

The major dangers; Management and loss of Broadland over time in East Anglia; Deterioration of waterfowl and wet grassland; Reedswamp dieback.

Chapter 12, Conservation

Introduction; Principles of conservation.


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