A Message from the Tatra: Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing in Mountain Environmental Research, edited by Wojciech Widacki, Andrzej Bytnerowicz and Allen Riebau. Kraków, Poland: Jagiellonian University Press, 2004. 233 pp. €20.00. ISBN 83-233-1843-3.
This book presents an edited selection of papers from the Environ-Mount conference, held in 2002—the year designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Mountains in order to “elevate human understanding of mountains and their place, both cultural and ecological, in the life of nations.” The conference took place in Zakopane, a historic and picturesque village on the Polish side of the Tatra mountains, organized by the Jagiellonian University and other European and international organizations sharing an interest in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, cartography, forestry and, above all, mountains.
As reflected in the contents of the book, the conference addressed various environmental topics—air quality, photogrammetry, geostatistics and ozone distribution, education, forestry and landscape management, modeling landslide hazards, land cover mapping and classification, and visualization—within the overall mountain theme, being based on research in various European ranges (with 5 papers on the Tatra), the Appalachians, Rocky Mountains, and the Himalaya. The 15 main papers are introduced in a short preface written by the editors that both informs and entertains. The book makes effective use of color throughout.
This said, I struggle for innovative and interesting ways to review the book's main contents. It is exactly what you would expect from a selection of conference papers. They have a common theme—in this case mountains and GIS and remote sensing—but, aside from that, there is little else to hold them together. They are of a high enough quality to appear in a refereed journal, and if I were to single out a couple for direct praise I would venture those by Allen Riebau on managing alpine air quality and by Pece Gorsevski, Paul Gessler, and Piotr Jankowski on prediction of landslide hazard using fuzzy k-means and Bayes Theorem. The inclusion of 2 papers on geostatistics and ozone distribution seems a little odd, and I wonder to what extent they could have been merged.
I would not rush out and buy this book; rather it is one I would borrow from the reference library. There are better books on mountain GIS, such as Price and Heywood (1994), but this is now a little out of date. The current volume could serve as a useful appendix by adding more up-to-date research. So, in short, this is where I'll put my review copy: on the shelf next to Price and Heywood's book.