Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians- Book Review

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Weidensaul, S. (1994). Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.

Weidensaul is probably better known for his 1999 book, Living on the Wind, about bird migration. However, Mountains of the Heart, is a detailed work that provides a comprehensive survey of the Appalachian Mountains. Even though there have been natural history books about the Appalachian chain written since 1994 and two big experiments (failed reintroduction of red wolves and reintroduction of elk in NC mountains) occurred after the book was published, Weidensaul provides the widest range of information from the geologic origins to the conservation concerns of the mid-90’s. Weidensaul writes:

The southern Appalachians are a particulary nasty dent, and the culprit was the bulge of Africa, which rear-ended North America about 290 million years ago. The impact shoved much of the continental rim inland, piling it up on top of younger rock, which—at Linville Falls and elsewhere—is sometimes exposed by erosion (p.10)

It is obvious that Weidensaul has done a tremendous amount of research for this book. Some interesting topics that Weidensaul discusses include:

  1. 34 species of salamanders in Southern Appalachians- p.40, 55
  2. Diversity of the Appalachian cove forests, the most diverse temperate ecosystem outside of China- p.53
  3. Relationship between squirrels and acorns- p.58
  4. Use of brook trout populations to monitor acid rain damage to creeks- p.73
  5. Mass calling of chorus frogs and spring peepers- p. 79
  6. Disappearance of the American chesnut, Fraser fir, and hemlock

Anyone with an interest in either the natural history of the Appalachian mountains or a general interest in ecology will find this book fascinating.

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