What are vernal pools, you ask? Vernal pools or ponds are seasonal pools of water characterized by completely drying up seasonally. Filling up with early spring rains, snow melt, or ground water, most vernal pools dry up with summer heat.
Why care? Due to completely drying out seasonally, vernal pools are distinctly devoid of any fish species. Fish are common predators for many plants and animals, and when fish are absent, certain fauna are able to dominate. My interest is obviously centered around the fantastic breeding opportunities vernal pools offer amphibians. Because most amphibians (frogs, salamanders, newts, etc...) must lay their eggs in fresh water, lakes with fish who would eat the eggs just don't cut it. Instead, vernal pools or similar pools of water provide the stability and protection necessary for eggs to develop into tadpoles, and eventually adults.
VP methodically devotes reasonable amounts of text to each aspect of vernal pools based on their importance to the ecosystem. This was a particularly important point to me, showing Colburn's successful attempts to reduce her innate authorial biases.
This book has chapters on the following topics: Introduction to Vernal Pools; Hydrology; Vernal Pools in the Landscape: Origins, Landscape Positions, and Habitat Characteristics; Bacteria, Protists, Algae, and Fungi; Vegetation; Life History Strategies of Pool Animals, Non-Arthropod Invertebrates; Crustaceans; Insects; Water Mites and Miscellaneous Other Arthropods; Amphibians; Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals; Energy Flow, Seasonal Cycles, and Variations in Community Composition; Protecting Vernal Pools; and a nice Afterword.
Overall: 5/5 - Great and current science writing.