Emerging Properties of the Landscape

Until the present, environmental complexity has not been described by general rules, but by applying a plethora of small, separate rules valid only within a narrow component of such complexity (Allen and Hoekstra 1992). A landscape can be considered as any piece of the "real world" ranging from the few millimeters of a microcosm of pico-plankton, to the several kilometers-wide geographical range occupied by a wolf pack. Objects within a landscape are subject to the functional constraints of emergent properties including heterogeneity and influence from other co-specific, or heterospecific, objects. Density-dependent functions, connectivity, and matrix hostility are some of the emergent properties of a landscape from either a process-based or an organismic-based view.

The landscape paradigm is useful when applied to the habitat concept. A habitat is often not coincident with an ecosystem, but it may be a part of an ecosystem or conversely may be composed of more than one ecosystem. For instance, the habitat of a dragonfly varies greatly from the aquatic larva to the adult that lives in terrestrial habitats. European thrushes overwinter in open agro-ecosystems around the Mediterranean basin, but breed in the dense woodlands of central and northern Europe. In this way, if we consider the functions of a species, we can imagine a habitat that is composed of parts of different ecosystems.

The application of new, more integrated paradigms, such as the eco-field (Laszlo 1996, Farina 2000, Farina and Belgrano 2004, 2006, see also Chapter 8), provides landscape models with new information on the interactions between an organism and its life-support systems. The eco-field can be considered as the functional and structural space in which an organism lives, and it represents the incorporation of the chorological components of the habitat into the niche concept. We predict that an organism crosses a different landscape according to a specific function, integrating the scaling properties of environmental complexity.

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