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Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-year Study - Hardcover

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9781907057120: Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-year Study
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This was no wildlife garden; the term barely existed when Owen started recording in 1972. Hers was a standard family garden in suburban Leicester. In this unique long-term study she recorded 2,673 species ranging from plants to mammals. Wildlife she monitored included butterflies, moths, beetles, hoverflies (Owen's specialist area) and numerous other invertebrates as well as plants, mammals and birds. She discusses diversity, abundance and annual fluctuations and relates these to weather, changes in the countryside and other ecological factors. Numerous garden species, both common and unusual, are illustrated in full colour. Owen's earlier book, The Ecology of a Garden (CUP, 1991), presented the results of the first 15 years of her survey. It was a landmark publication that became the standard reference for all those interested in garden wildlife. This new work brings the whole survey together by adding many new records and providing analysis of long-term trends. The author concludes that insect numbers declined over the survey period, although beetles and solitary wasps bucked the trend and increased. The declines are probably due to loss of suitable habitat in the wider environment but she remains optimistic regarding management changes in the countryside and increasing temperatures. She also finds that non-native garden plants are particularly good as food sources for insect larvae, particularly moth caterpillars, the best being buddleia (Buddleja davidii), shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) and cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera). Owen's work is published at a time when interest in wildlife gardening has never been higher but detailed data is scarce; this book fills the gap.

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Review:
This book received an enormous amount of interest from the media when it was published, so that most readers will already have a rough idea of what it's about. The newspapers made much of the fact that the author had found more insects in her suburban garden than would be found in a similar-sized plot of tropical rainforest. But the reason for this rich diversity of insects is that a typical English garden has an enormous diversity of plants, even though most of these are alien rather than native; the number of plant species in most gardens is much larger than in an equivalent area of rainforest or in even the richest and most diverse of British nature reserves.[...] Jennifer Owen writes clearly, and this fascinating book makes wonderful reading from beginning to end. Lavishly produced by the Royal Horticultural Society, it should reach a wide audience of gardeners and encourage them to look more closely at the extraordinary array of insects in their gardens. It will, no doubt, also encourage entomologists to see if the number of insects in their own gardens can compete with or even outstrip those in this now famous suburban Leicester garden. --British Wildlife, February 2011

Wildlife of a Garden is a timely reminder that a fascinating natural world flourishes beyond the savannas, jungles and wildernesses we see on our television sets, it also makes sober reading for nature lovers. For despite the proliferation of back garden life, she found the number of creatures has been remorselessly declining since the project began in 1972. --The Independent, Viewspaper, 12 November 2010

Dr Owen's house on a busy street corner is unremarkable, as are her suburban front and back gardens. Laid out in 1927 they comprise 741 square metres of lawn, rockery, compost heap, herbaceous and mixed borders, hemmed in by a greenhouse and garage. What is remarkable is the ambition, intelligence and application of Dr Owen, an Oxford-educated ecology lecturer and zoology museum curator. While the rest of us snooze in a deck-chair or absent-mindedly do a bit of light weeding, Dr Owen has watched, listened and recorded every tiny bit of plant and animal life in her small plot. And she has done it all without a single penny of public money - with friends from the academic world helping her identify some of the more obscure insects. --Daily Mail, 22 November 2010

Many readers of BTO News, particularly Garden BirdWatchers, will have long lists of birds and other wildlife that have visited their garden. It is hard to imagine, however, that any will surpass that of Jennifer Owens. In Wildlife of a Garden, Owen documents 30 years of careful observations in her modest suburban garden in Leicester, during which over 2,500 species of plants and animals have been recorded, including several that were new to science. Here, Owen provides a compelling, colourful and accessible account of this study, with chapters dedicated to butterflies, moths, hoverflies (her specialist area), beetles, and vertebrates, amongst others. In our urbanising world, Owen demonstrates how gardens can support substantial biodiversity and also illustrates the value of identifying and recording our flora and fauna. Chris Packham, BTO Vice President, writes in equally glowing terms in the foreword of this book. An inspirational read for any wildlife gardener. --BTO News, Mar-Apr 2011

Wildlife gardening experts have hailed the 'genius' of Dr Jennifer Owen's new book, Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-Year Study. The groundbreaking research, in which Owen recorded every plant and animal in her suburban Leicester garden, will never be exceeded, said Dr Ken Thompson, speaking at the launch. Owen found 2,673 plants and animals in her garden in her 1972-2001 survey, including 474 plants, 1,997 insects and 138 other invertebrates, as well as 54 birds and seven ma --Horticulture Week, 26 Nov 2010

Not all of us use our gardens as laboratories but that's just what Jenny Owen decided to do. She began 30 years ago by recording all the wildlife in her Leicester garden. Insects were trapped and monitored and she kept detailed records of mammals, birds and amphibians. over the course of 30 years she discovered an amazing 2,673 species! She insists that her garden, set just off a busy commuter road leading into the city is just like thousands of others across the country. It contains a central lawn, a small pond, flower and vegetable beds, shrubs and small trees. But her work in this ordinary suburban garden has had a major influence on how we view and manage gardens as spaces for wildlife. The attention she paid to investigating the insect population in her garden is one of the most revealing aspects of her work. She recorded over 400 species of beetle, 80 species of spider and nearly 60 species of bees. --BBC Radio 4, Saving Species, 31 May 2011

Wildlife gardening experts have hailed the 'genius' of Dr Jennifer Owen's new book, Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-Year Study. The groundbreaking research, in which Owen recorded every plant and animal in her suburban Leicester garden, will never be exceeded, said Dr Ken Thompson, speaking at the launch. Owen found 2,673 plants and animals in her garden in her 1972-2001 survey, including 474 plants, 1,997 insects and 138 other invertebrates, as well as 54 birds and seven mammals. Hoverflies numbered 43,749 from 1972-86 and 16,987 from 1987-2001. Butterflies were at 172 in 1973 but fell to 19 in 2001. Moths dived from 622 to 132 in the same years. Common wasps fell from 123 in 1972 to seven in 2001. Owen said non-native plants were surprisingly good at attracting wildlife. Thompson added: 'Those who regard natural history as another branch of stamp collecting are sniffy about gardens'. But he said Owen's book proved gardens value because her 'ordinary' garden contained, for example, 56 per cent of all UK social bee species, 54.2 per cent of all UK ladybirds, 47.8 per cent of harvestmen species and 41.8 per cent of lacewings. Owen said: 'I had no idea [the survey] would go on for so long'. She rued the 'enormous decline' in insects spotted compared to 'the glory years' of the 1970s. --Horticulture Week, 26 Nov 2010
About the Author:
Dr Jennifer Owen is an ecologist who has lectured in universities and adult education centres as well as working as a zoology museum curator. Her specialist subject area is hoverflies. In 2010 she was awarded the Ecological Engagement Award from the British Ecological Society and the Veitch Memorial Medal from the RHS for her work. Her previous publications include Feeding Strategy (Chicago University Press, 1980), Garden Life (Chatto & Windus, 1983), The Ecology of a Garden (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and numerous scientific papers.

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  • PublisherRoyal Horticultural Society
  • Publication date2010
  • ISBN 10 1907057129
  • ISBN 13 9781907057120
  • BindingHardcover
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages276
  • Rating
    4.33 avg rating
    ( 3 ratings by Goodreads )

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