An ecologist presents a detailed study of a biosphere in India.
India’s beautiful Nilgiri uplands, home to a wide array of animals and plants, is the focus of this nonfiction debut by ecologist Bosco. He vividly conveys the diversity of the plateau’s wildlife in many full-color photos, describing the area as “shaped in the form of hundreds of rolling hills and valleys as though a huge hand had crinkled the upper face of a large slab of earth.” Bosco describes the flora and fauna of the uplands (with great assistance from the book’s many illustrations), including elephants, crocodiles, and numerous birds, and he sketches a portrait of the area’s indigenous peoples and how they’ve interacted with their environment in low-impact ways for centuries. The narrative becomes more complex as Bosco shows how indigenous peoples have been affected as systematic agriculture has been introduced into the region, placing greater stress on the natural world. The author goes on to describe how “native plant ecology has been completely marginalized, literally to the edges of the landscape.” However, in the midst of this alarming picture of invasive species crowding out old-growth plants and of the human slaughter of elephants and huge native cattle, Bosco also effectively documents areas of stubborn regeneration throughout the region. Throughout, he draws readers’ attention to the fact that the Nilgiri highland is a kind of “petri dish containing every type of natural aspect and opposing pressure”—indeed, almost every type of adverse pressure is represented in this one small area. Bosco’s book has plenty of graphs and charts to help readers quantify the data that he presents, but the clearest information comes from his prose, which maintains a gentle but persistent note of optimism.
An intensely detailed and gripping ecological examination.