David G. Campbell is the author of The Ephemeral Islands; The Crystal Desert; Islands in Space in Time; and A Land of Ghosts; and co-editor of Floristic Inventory of Tropical Countries.
The Ephemeral Islands: A Natural History of the Bahamas
(Macmillan, London 1978).
Description (from the publisher): The Ephemeral Islands is the first comprehensive natural history of the Bahamas in over seventy years. Although wide-ranging in perspective, the book emphasizes those habitats and species that are uniquely Bahamian or are in danger of disappearing. As Prince Philip wrote in the Forward to The Ephemeral Islands, "the first step to rational conservation measures is a knowledge of the facts." The Ephemeral Islands will be a corner-stone of Bahamian conservation for years to come. To understand modern-day Bahamian natural history, one must consider the geological, evolutionary and historical processes which have led to the present. In terms of geological time, the modern-day Bahamas have only just emerged from the shallow Pleistocene sea, and perhaps in an equally short period of time will return to the sea; hence the title of the book. All terrestrial ecosystems are, therefore, relatively young in the Bahamas. Many disparate species, spread over dozens of islands, all hark from common Pleistocene ancestors. As the author points out, Charles Darwin could well have derived his insights into evolution and speciation in the Bahama Islands, should destiny have sent him there instead of the Galapagos islands. Islands are nature's moated evolutionary laboratories and the naturalist's special love.
- "David G. Campbell, former Director of the Bahamas National Trust, has communicated in a lively and captivating style his enthusiasm for the flora and fauna of the 700 islands which comprise the Commonwealth of the Bahamas." Caribbean & West Indies Chronicle.
- "...a book of exceptional quality...a delightfully readable style. The range of topics is so comprehensive that any review is bound to be inadequate." W. G. B. Gooding. Caribbean Conservation News.
- "...a gem of a book." Sea Frontiers.
The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica
(Houghton Mifflin Company 1993)
Description (from the American publisher): The Crystal Desert is not only the most eloquent book ever written about Antarctica but one of the best portraits of place ever published.
Most books about Antarctica have focused on the lifeless ice cap that smothers two-thirds of the continent and on the heroic marches toward the South Pole that have pitted humans against a frozen world. The Crystal Desert is about the other Antarctica, the "banana belt" of the Antarctic Peninsula. The interior of the Peninsula is biological haiku: a few eloquent syllables of plants and animals. The tallest plant is a lichen ten centimeters high, the largest land animal a flightless midge two millimeters long. But the sea surrounding the Peninsula brims with life like no other on Earth.
The Crystal Desert is a story of life's tenacity in this coldest and most alien of continents. It is a chronicle of events - of courtship, hatching, birth, growth, predation and death - during the desperately short summer, when for three months the sun marches around the northern horizon and sets only briefly. It tells of penguins and seabirds and seals and whales, of the evolution of life in Antarctica and of the evolution of the continent itself from the land mass known as Gondwana. It tells of the explorers who discovered Antarctica, of the whalers and sealers who despoiled it, and of the scientists working there today - especially at the Brazilian station, "Little Copacabana," where parties often last all night and Carnival runs for three days.
Awards: Voted one of the best books of 1993 by the Editors of the New York Times Book Review.
- Winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction.
- Winner of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award.
- Winner of the Burroughs Medal for Adult Natural History Writing.
- "A work of flawless prose, in which the plants, rocks, and glaciers of Antarctica are treated with the same particularity as the characters in a novel." Edna O'Brien, The New York Times Book Review.
- "Mr. Campbell makes poetry of science, sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times.
- "Mr. Campbell is one of those writers whose powers of exposition have been enhanced by the discipline of science...his descriptions of the life cycles of penguins, terns, elephant seals, whales and other Antarctic animal life are unforgettable." The New Yorker.
- "Not since Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia have I read so fascinating an account of one man's discovery of the far south." Robert Carver, Times Literary Supplement (London).
- "a satisfying, stick-to-the-ribs stew of nature-science-travel writing" Audubon.
- "Antarctica, its embalmed heart and teeming seas marking the extremes of lifelessness and life, has found its poet in the author of this scintillating book." Christopher Wordsworth, London Sunday Telegraph.
- "Fits nicely alongside Stephen Pyne's The Ice (1986) on the very slim shelf of first-rate Antarctic natural histories." Kirkus Reviews.
- "An Adam looks at Antarctica...the finest journals of discovery are a balance between the explorer and the explored. David G. Campbell's account of Antarctica, where he spend three summers as a research biologist, is the truest balance imaginable." Richard Eder, New York Newsday.
- "polished and passionate, with an immediate quality..." Publishers Weekly.
Islands in Space and Time
(Houghton Mifflin Company 1996).
Description (from the publisher): David G. Campbell turns an ecologist's keen eye on ten beautiful but endangered wilderness areas across the globe. He travels to the island of Moloka'i, where remnants of the true Hawaii can still be found; to Ecuador's remote, mountainous Cayambe Coca reserve; to a bay in Brazil that preserves a fragment of the once vast coastal forest; to the Flying D Ranch in Montana, where 3,300 bison roam the recovering grasslands; to the Everglades and tiny Lignumvitae Key in Florida; even to the coral reefs and secret lakes of the Rock Islands of Palau in Micronesia. Campbell brings back vivid portraits of places where the rich natural mosaic of species is being preserved against great odds. He accompanies Ache tribesmen in Paraguay on an armadillo hunt, observes flamingos mating in Yucatan, listens to the wild cries of howler monkeys in Belize, and everywhere finds a diversity of interconnected life forms. At the same time, he reminds us of the fragility of these refuges, their vulnerability to introduced plant and animal species and to modern practices of agriculture and industry.
- "Ecologist Campbell travelled the globe in search of wilderness areas, and he provides vivid portraits of ten such places he found in Islands in Space and Time." Nature.
- "Campbell, a gifted ecologist and writer, has written a moving, thought-provoking description of some of the last remaining intact ecosystems on Earth. He describes in beautiful prose both the natural and actual history of ten "islands in space and time" spanning the Americas and the Pacific Islands. He traveled from the Florida Keys and Everglades to the Flying D Ranch in Montana to the San Pedro in Arizona. He then traversed the high Andes in Ecuador and pushed through the jungles of southern Brazil and Paraguay. In the Pacific, he visited the island paradises of Molokai and Palau. The result is both a portrait of these places and a plea to take stock now and preserve our planet while we can. Campbell points out again and again that it's up to the community surrounding these areas to preserve them now before they are lost forever." Sandra Knowles, Library Journal.
- "For this tribute to the richness of the natural world, Grinnell College biologist Campbell traveled to 10 of the remarkable habitats protected by the Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places program. Campbell's...understanding of ecosystems is deep and conveyed clearly as he describes the geological and biological history of these preserves, as well as the influence that humans have had on the flora and fauna of each area...Unless great care is taken, he explains, all are ephemeral; but if they are lost, some small solace will be gained by knowing that they have been chronicled in this fine, well-organized book. The text is complemented by 100 striking color photographs." Publisher's Weekly.
- "Campbell explores ten beautiful but endangered wilderness areas across the globe, from Moloka'i, where remnants of ancient Hawai'ian flora and fauna can still be found, to the secret lakes of the Rock Islands of Palau in Micronesia and the tiny Lignumvitae Key in Florida's Everglades. The photographs are superb and the author's narrative, treating both the natural beauty and the native inhabitants, is equally fine." Booknews.
A Land of Ghosts: The Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia
Description (from the American publisher): The western Amazon is the last frontier, the wildest west the Earth has ever known. For thirty years David G. Campbell has been exploring this lush wilderness, where more species live than have ever existed anywhere else at any time in the four-billion-year history of life on our planet.
In A Land of Ghosts: The Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia…Campbell takes us with him as he travels to the town of Cruzeiro do Sul, 2,800 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. Here he collects three old friends: Tarzan, a street urchin brought up in a bordello; Arito, a caiman hunter turned paleontologist; and Pimentel, a master canoe pilot. They travel together even farther into the rain forest, set up camp, and survey every living plant in a land so rich that an area of less than fifty acres contains three times as many tree species as all of North America.
Campbell knows the trees individually, has watched them grow from seedling to death. He also knows the people of the Amazon: the recently arrived colonists with their failing farms; the mixed-blood Caboclos, masters of hunting, fishing, and survival; and the refugee Native Americans. Campbell introduces us to two remarkable women, Dona Cabocla, a widow who raised six children on that lonely frontier, and Dona Ausira, a Nokini Native American who is the last speaker of her tribe's ages-old language. These people live in a land whose original inhabitants were wiped out by centuries of disease, slavery, and genocide, taking their traditions and languages with them — a land of ghosts.
- 2005 Lannan Award for Nonfiction
- "…a beautifully written elegy for the Amazon forest and its peoples. …every word is written with unerring grace…an instant classic." Toby Green, The Independent (UK).
- "Campbell’s prose is poetic, and his painterly eye makes you feel you were right there…[a] masterpiece of a book…" Peter de Groot, New Scientist.
- “…the Amazon] marvelously described and movingly evoked… Campbell offers what feels like a lover’s last, lingering look." William Grimes, The New York Times.
- “[Campbell] enchants us…[with] dramas that a less skilled observer wouldn't even know were unfolding." Elizabeth Royte, New York Times Book Review.
- "Like the sinuous Amazon River he writes of so eloquently, ecologist David Campbell glides between travelogue and natural history…" Roger Harris, American Scientist.
- "incredible clarity…one could read the book several times over and still grasp fresh connections." Greta Anderson, Des Moines Register.
- “Campbell is like an archangel moonlighting as a river guide." Jonathan Miles, Men's Journal.
- "It wouldn't be much of a compliment to say that he [Campbell] writes like a poet. Would that our poets could write as well as he does…" Eric Ormsby, NY Sun.
- "…[a] fluent and highly intelligent book…" Joe Kane, Orion.
- “…a vibrant book, one that truly captures the wonder of the Amazon rainforest and the decay of its remote frontier settlements.” John Hemming, Times Higher Education Supplement (UK).
Floristic Inventory of Tropical Countries
(New York Botanical Garden. 1989).
Description (from the publisher): Floristic Inventory of Tropical Countries provides an evaluation and synthesis of the status of plant inventory and completeness of collections of rain forest vegetation in tropical countries, placing special emphasis on threatened habitats, zones of endemism, and endangered species. It draws together the expertise of over 60 scientists from around the world, and presents results of a joint research effort by the New York Botanical Garden, The Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. By doing so it aims to furnish scientists, conservationists, government officials, and land-use planners with a foundation upon which to build ecologically sound policy and plans pertaining to the development, utilization, preservation, and conservation of these rapidly disappearing ecosystems.
- "...provides the most complete and detailed information available on the status of floristic research within the world's tropical regions. It presents a monumental effort of gathering information from an extremely broad geographical area..." American Association of Systematics Collectors Newsletter.
- "...every biology department and herbarium in the world should have a copy of this compendium on its shelves..." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.
- "...a valuable reference for all those interested in tropical rainforest botany..." Tropical Conservation and Development Newsletter.