Definition of Mosaic

The word "mosaic" is from the medieval Latin "musaicus" and means a creation from the Muses (Nine Greek divinities of arts and sciences, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosine). Mosaic was originally used to describe the artistic creation of figures on pavements or walls using small pieces of painted material, such as stones, marble, wood of regular shape (from the Greek tessera (gonos); in Latin tessera means an object with four sides) placed close to each other to build figures (Fig. 3.2). Later the

Fig. 3.2 A mosaic from the Roman period. This is a wonderful example of the art of decoration using the mosaic technique

Fig. 3.2 A mosaic from the Roman period. This is a wonderful example of the art of decoration using the mosaic technique

word mosaic came to be used in many contexts to indicate a pattern characterized by distinct elements aggregated to produce a system.

In geographical or ecological meaning the ecological mosaic can be defined as an aggregation of patches of different types in which the interactions are determined by the functions that this mosaic is developing. In other words, a mosaic is the representation of the emergent properties of component patches. When we are dealing with a mosaic the study or the management of a spatially heterogeneous unit in which heterogeneity is produced by size, shape, and distribution of composing patches is necessary.

This unitarian vision of a mosaic allows the investigation of phenomena that occur at a scale many times larger than the patch scale.

Enormous efforts have been undertaken by landscape ecologists to understand the role of mosaics, especially the one created by the combination of human use and vegetation dynamics; but this analysis has appeared often too superficial and too restricted to a relatively narrow range of temporal and spatial scales. Finally, patterns are considered in terms of spatial objects that maintain their properties independent of the context in which they exist. We have very scant information on the rule and functions of the mosaics, but probably the heterogeneous distribution of all the objects in our living and nonliving space pertains to a general rule of the matter. Nevertheless, the study of mosaics appears a promising approach to a better understanding of the complexity of our living system.

Dimension, shape, and contagion of the ecological mosaics are the product of interaction between organisms and their physical and biological context. If mosaics are common features in any biological and nonbiological world it is important to discover the rules and the processes by which they are created and maintained.

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