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The Spice of Life


Biodiversity and the extinction crisis, by Chris Howes

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The Spice of Life

From the dustjacket

Take a rich mixture of life, a gentle squeeze of evolution, add a pinch of history and flavour liberally with science. The Spice of Life an extraordinary study of life: how it began, what affects its species – and where it is heading. This fascinating and informative book, illustrated throughout with stunning colour photography and diagrams, shows where science is taking us and how we initiate new forms of life. Here are the influences of our world, the terrors of pollution and the need for conservation.

The sheer variety of life on earth is both astonishing and bewildering. Even as we approach the year 2000, we still have little idea of how many other species share our planet, of what they are or how they live. Around 1.5 million species of animal and plan have been recorded already, but current estimates suggest the earth may be supporting 20 to 50 times this number. We hardly know what we are destroying, from the forest floor to coastal wetlands.

We are in the opening stages of a massive, global extinction crisis, with around 100 species annihilated each day by our activities. By the start of the next millennium, between 15 and 20 per cent of the world's species will be lost, their genes gone forever. The speed of this mass extinction far outstrips that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. While we cannot predict the effect this may have on sustaining our living planet, the concepts behind the latest buzzword – biodiversity – are crucial to this understanding.

The Spice of Life is a clear, authoritative and beautiful book that describes how quickly the world is undergoing change, and how urgent our need to initiate controls. It is, above all, a story of our wonder with nature, but it is also a story of our potential fate, unless we can recognise the risks in time.

  • Author: Chris Howes
  • Binding: Hardback and softback
  • Size: 19.5cm x 25.5cm
  • Pages: 192
  • Illustrations: Over 100 colour photographs and illustrations
  • Publication date: 1997 (HB), 1998 (SB)
  • ISBN: 978-0-7137-2390-8 and 978-0-7137-2760-9
  • Other: Published by Blandford Press, Wild Places Publishing is the sole distributor


Picture credits
The Gods of Gaia
Introduction: Imagine

1  Mapping a world of disorder
2  It's life, Jim
3  Through the looking glass
4  Living with neighbours
5  A gene too far
6  Life burning brighter
7  Extinction is so final
8  Gardens of plenty
9  The spice of life

Epilogue: Today, tomorrow

From the dustjacket:

Chris Howes's curiosity in the richness of life that surrounds us all and his passion for photography both began at an early age. The combination of these two interests has led to a lifetime of viewing the world from an unusual perspective.

With a specific concern for the environment and a love of wilderness habitats, both arid and oceanic, Chris has taken every opportunity to travel to far-flung places. This has provided him with a wealth of first-hand experience and photographs on which to base this book.

Chris is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, has written several books on photography and is the editor of the caving magazine Descent. After obtaining a degree in zoology and teaching biology for many years, Chris now works as a freelance author and photographer specialising in the natural world, conservation and outdoor sports. He currently lives in Cardiff.

A softback edition, ISBN 978-0-7137-2760-9, was published in September 1998 at £15. Wild Places Publishing is also the sole distributor of this edition.