Two of four projected ecological portraits, with burgeoning plant and animal life carefully described and also meticulously portrayed in Dow's finely detailed paintings. In The Forest, an old oak tree harbors insects that feed birds as well as mosses and fungi; the plants beneath are shown both above and below ground, with earthworms tunneling among the roots and, later, mice storing acorns and hibernating. When the 200-year-old tree is removed and replaced with orderly rows of conifers, many fewer species are accommodated, yet a new equilibrium is eventually established in spite of human interference. In The River, man's intrusion takes the form of industrial pollution; the river is shown healing itself in time, as long as it is allowed to stay clean. Although many of the species shown (and carefully labeled) are British, most will be familiar; the clearly enunciated principles are universal. Beautiful books, to be treasured by nature lovers and to make new converts; enough information to be useful for assignments as well.