In 2010, world renowned author and Cambridge University Botanist, Dr Sylvia M. Haslam, teamed up with professional artist and desktop publisher, Tina Bone, to co-author a series of riverine/riparian small books. The series of books is designed to bridge a gap: pond-dipping for primary schools does little; nor does scientific or school literature; or EU Law. The people who need to be made aware of loss, however, do turn up in their thousands to visit not only Nature Reserves, but also Cathedrals, National Trust properties and such-like, and often drop in to a gift shop afterwards to buy a memento by which to remember their visit. We would like these people to buy a River Friend book instead of the usual trinket, and to be encouraged by their purchase to look out for others in the series—compact easy-read, A5-size publications, attractive, modestly priced, and most of all informative.
“A BOOK OF REED” (Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steudel, formerly Phragmites communis Trin.)
REPRINT 2021 • ISBN 978-1-9168781-0-5
Common reed (Phragmites australis, formerly P. communis) is a tall grass attaining a height of eight metres or more, with a large inflorescence. It is the principal, dominant species in European reedswamps and marshes, where the species may live for thousands of years. Phragmites grows in a variety of environmental conditions. It occurs from bog to marsh, to lake edges, from damp ground to depths of up to four metres in brackish and freshwater, from sea level to mountain. It may be tall and dominant, sparse and flaccid in wet woods, in bands along streams, as solitary shoots in fens, as short (10 cm) scratchy shoots in dry, salty trampled places, or as runners along the ground. Quite a variety!
The study of Phragmites has been patchy, and serious, long-term research on the plant is still needed. The author is one of the people who, during a long career, has undertaken any such investigations.
In this book, the life history of the plant, its pattern and growth, genetic and clonal variations, along with the plant’s physical economic impact on its environment, are all discussed.
Above all else, it shows how remarkable this plant is.
[First Published by Forrest Text 2010, Cardigan SA43 2JG, UK ISBN 978-0-9564692-0-5 out of print]
Published Titles in the RIVER FRIEND SMALL BOOKS SERIES:
All titles also available from Amazon Books.
Book 6, An Introduction to the WATER FRAMEWORK DIRECTIVE (ISBN 978 1 9162096 3 3)
Book 5, REED—ON THE EDGE (ISBN 978 1 9162096 4 0)
Book 4, INTERPRET: What do Plants tell us? (ISBN 978 1 9162096 5 7)
Book 3, A PROLOGUE TO THE SERIES (ISBN 978 1 9162096 2 6)
Book 2, STREAM STORY I: A Riveting Riverscape—River Brue, Somerset (ISBN 978 1 9162096 0 2)
Book 1, DRYING UP (ISBN 978 1 9162096 1 9)
In Prep’n. (2021):
WATER: Clean and Dirty (ISBN 978 1 9162096 7 1)
STREAM STORY: A Brook in Transit: Bourn Brook, Cambridge (ISBN 978 1 9162096 8 8)
Vegetation Changes Over Time. Is there FREEZE FRAME? (ISBN 978 1 9162096 6 4)
WHAT RIVERS DO FOR US
STREAM STORY: Another Riveting Riverscape—The River Cam, Cambridge
LOOK AT THE BOTTOM
Each book is about a different subject, so the series can be read in any order. Individually the books cover one aspect of rivers and the riverine environment, so each one is both a stand-alone and, hopefully, a taster for the series. To assist novices to the subjects, the whole Series of books is tied together by the Prologue which aims to assist the reader in identifying aquatic plants. It also contains a glossary of some of the main “technical” terms mentioned in the series, and a reference section for further reading.
What is the worst that can happen to a river? That it vanishes, and all its life vanishes with it: the people, the plants, the animals: not just the fish, but the crops, the cattle, the forests, the everything. All are made mostly of water. Look around: what is in that leaf, that spider, that deer, that petal? WATER! And although many animals and (mostly tiny) plants live in the sea in salt water, it is the fresh water in the land, derived from rain, which supports us and our main natural resources.
Rivers and riverscapes are deteriorating surprisingly fast. Very few people know or have recognised this, partly because large rivers like the Trent or Dee are still there, “the same” as usual, partly because there is (rightly) good publicity for new beavers or reed buntings and “good habitat”—but unfortunately no mention that this good work usually applies to 0.5–2km-reaches. Even the small stream in your nearest valley is probably 5–10km in length, and the length of British streams and rivers in all is many thousands of km. Improving 2km, however valuable locally, does not halt a seemingly unstoppable general decline.
Thanks, largely, to Dr Oliver Rackham, the term “Ancient Woodland” has entered the British language, and many people now understand that it exists and that it is a valuable national asset which needs conserving.
But what about rivers? On television there are plenty of pretty pictures and many interviews with commentators who live or work by rivers. But outside the angling and watery ecological communities—nothing; thousands protesting at the loss of, say, Lemna trisulca (star duckweed/Ivy-leaved duckweed)—none!
As far as river vegetation is concerned, only a few sites have been monitored 1930–2012. There is a notable millennial collapse, circa 1995–2005. Loss has been shocking in Britain, except for remote, low-population, low-intensity farming areas such as NW Scotland.