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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


January-February 2013

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Books of Note: The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans: Ecosystems, Threatened Resources, Marine Conservation

Over the past 60 years, humans have changed the world's ecosystems more rapidly and more comprehensively than in any other comparable period, largely to meet the increasing demands of a growing population for food, water, and raw materials. Economic development in many regions has been rapid, with dire consequences for the health of the environment. The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans focuses its attention on the interface between people and the marine environment, providing the general reader with an understanding of the current status of marine ecosystems, human dependence on marine resources, the major threats to ocean resources, and the importance of management action.

With this book, Don Hinrichsen provides a clear and evidence-based account of some of the major problems facing our coasts and oceans. The emphasis is on digestible facts that highlight the need for action. For example, marine fisheries provide a vital source of protein for millions of people worldwide; however as the atlas highlights, the majority of the world's fisheries are at risk. The author provides an accessible and succinct text that complements the maps and highlights the links between people and place and the severe impact that humans are having on our oceans and coasts. The maps provide a regional to global perspective and add to the existing literature by focusing on anthropogenic impacts at multiple scales. The book is visually appealing and provides a quick reference tool.

The atlas is organized into six sections, complemented by a passionate introduction in which Hinrichsen outlines that marine and coastal ecosystems, some of the most productive on the planet, have been treated with disregard to the extent that 41% of the world ocean is suffering moderately heavy to heavy impacts through direct or indirect human action and that only 4% of the ocean remains untouched by human activities. Atlas sections include the following: (1) People and Coasts; (2) Major Threats to Ocean Resources; (3) Trade, Commerce, and Tourism; (4) Climate Change; (5) Seas in Conflict; and (6) Management of Coastal and Marine Areas.

The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans emphasizes the need for integrated coastal and ocean management with multiscale management plans, and the significant implementation gap (between planning and action) that currently exists. This book makes a welcome addition to the literature, utilizing large and complex data sets to provide an accurate and evidenced-based account of the major threats to our coasts and oceans.

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, PhD, works at the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.

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