Books for Nature Lovers
Guide to Grasses of southern Africa (Revised edition)
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Review By: Pretoria News - May 7 2012

A revelation that may change man's attitude towards nature 

Most people seem not to know how important grasses are to our existence. If it was not for grasses, most of us would not be around at all, as animals and human populations would be far smaller.
When dinosaurs walked the earth, grasses did not exist yet. 
We have used and cultivated grasses for nearly 10 000 years. 
One may wonder where humans eat grass. Well, the most common include wheat, rice, and maize, which we consume daily. 
There are nearly 9700 species worldwide and southern Africa has 967. 
Most of our farming stock bred for human consumption rely on grasses for survival. 
Our management of farmland and grasslands depends on our existence. Erosion due to overgrazing and bad land management results in loss of top soil and irreversible damage to our country. 
Loss of top soil is a major problem in Africa and everyone knows what a 'donga' is and what happens to the ground which has been cleared by machines or overgrazed. 
For the city slicker, these issues seem far removed from reality, but Van Oudtshoorn's book is essential study for all farmers and nature conservation students.
Understanding the fundamentals of grass progression is vital to all agricultural practitioners and industries that are likely to disturb the ground through road construction, building or by mining. 
The rehabilitation of any disturbed ground is difficult and a bulldozed patch of ground may take more than 100 years to regain its former grass condition. 
Once the top layer of soil is removed, the only plants that may thrive are weeds and unpalatable pioneer grasses. 
The exposed ground takes many successions of grass species, weeds and forbs before 'useful' and palatable grasses can grow again. 
The book is an excellent tool to use in identifying and learning more about our grasses. It is comprehensive and, as a reprint of his earlier book of the same name, contains updated information as well as extra common Afrikaans names of grasses used by farmers, making their identification easy. 
Every farmer and nature student needs this book and I would recommend it also to civil and mining engineers. 

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