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Under The Microscope

CITY NATURE: A GUIDE TO THE PLANTS & ANIMALS OF NEW ZEALAND CITIES & TOWNS by Bob Brockie; Penguin, 1997; 102 pages; $29.95

Reviewed by Vicki Hyde

Here's a great book that tells us bout the animals and plants we see in our urban environment. Most of us are more likely to encounter a rat than a kakapo (sadly), but it's nice to be able to put a name to the face when we do ("Rattus rattus, I presume"). It's cheering to find out that "a walk down Queen Street will reveal 50 different wild plants and at least 10 animal species", but only 18% of the flora and fauna identified in this book are actual natives and the alien invaders have succeeded on most fronts.

Brockie acknowledges the difficulties involved in presenting the urban ecology of a country that stretches over such a broad geographic range as we do, so don't expect to find all and sundry here. He's focused on "everyday" life and provided a bibliography for specialist assistance in identifying that beetle at the bottom of the stairs. The clear illustrations provide a quick reference when flicking through and all sorts of little factoids are to be found in the entries, a reflection of Brockie's long scientific career and extensive contacts.

Vicki Hyde is the editor of New Zealand Science Monthly.