Since the end of the 1930s, when the term "landscape ecology" was launched (Troll 1939), many gigantic strides in theory, methodology, and applications have been made in this branch of science (Wu and Hobbs 2002). The initial developments of landscape ecology took place mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, focusing on issues directly related to planning, management, conservation, and restoration of landscapes, that is a society-centered holistic view (Wu 2006). This research emphasis on the interactions between human activities and the landscape initiated the development of pragmatic views and approaches (Naveh 2000). In North America, landscape ecology began to develop in the 1980s with an apparent emphasis on spatial heterogeneity and its effects on ecological processes where quantitative methods, such as spatial pattern analysis and modeling, prevailed (Wu and Hobbs 2002). The development of landscape metrics, and the ongoing polemic on their use (Bogaert et al. 2002, Bogaert and Hong 2004, Turner 2005), since the publication of the seminal paper of O'Neill et al. (1988), exemplify this development. The importance of the spatial character of problems and research has been widely accepted (Bastian 2001), which is evidenced by the general acceptance of the pattern/process paradigm (Turner 1989) but agreement exists that spatial relations remain only one of the relevant foci in landscape ecology. Bridging this gap between the two dominant approaches in landscape ecology (sensu Wu and Hobbs 2007) was considered an urgent need both for theoretical and practical reasons, in order to enable the discipline to be really effective in terms of addressing the worlds environmental and ecological problems (Farina 1993).
As a field with a body of theory and applications, landscape ecology has coalesced and mushroomed in the 1980s and 1990s (Forman 1995) and has experienced rapid and exciting developments in both theory and applications. It has evolved from a regional discipline to a global science with its presence found in university curricula (Wu and Hobbs 2002). The development of landscape ecology has been furthered by the growing volume of complex landscape-related problems facing human societies at a global scale (Brandt 2000). Landscape ecology appears nowadays a wide spectrum of views, theories, and methodologies (Bastian 2001); it is characterized by a flux of ideas and perspectives that cut across a number of disciplines in both natural and social sciences. This diversity is often considered a
A. Farina, Ecology, Cognition and Landscape, Landscape Series 11,
DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3138-9, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
great strength (Wiens 1999, Wu and Hobbs 2007). Nevertheless, this stage of development of landscape ecology could be considered a stage of self-discovery (Bastian 2001), somewhere at the changeover between an infant stage and a mature stage, since landscape ecology still lacks a generally accepted conceptual and theoretical framework (Wu and Hobbs 2002). The ongoing search for a unifying definition of the term "landscape" is an illustration of this uncompleted evolution (Bastian 2001, Farina and Hong 2004), as well as the debate on what landscape ecology really is (Wu and Hobbs 2007). This discussion on the conceptual and theoretical development of landscape ecology has been recognized as a key issue for landscape ecology (Wu and Hobbs 2002).
After an intriguing era of impressive action in theoretical as well as in applied fields, landscape ecology is now facing a crucial dilemma in its historical development. The first option is to maintain and strengthen its independent position inside ecology by evolving new theories, concepts, and practical tools (Farina 2001). This option is the most challenging, but also extremely arduous, since it involves reconsideration of widely accepted definitions, concepts and paradigms, and for this, the approval of the landscape ecological community will be required. This is likely to shock the science community which could undermine the current stability and success of landscape ecology. Despite this risk, this dynamics or instability will undoubtedly push landscape ecology to a more mature and solid scientific framework (Fig. 1), a key condition to prevent absorption of the discipline by related or (future) trans-disciplinary ones. The sole alternative to this "shock therapy" is to restrict actions to the applied field with the risk of being incorporated into the plethora of more reductionistic ecological approaches. By identifying and stating explicitly this dilemma for landscape ecology, landscape ecologists are challenged dynamics dynamics
Fig. 1 By evolution of its paradigms and concepts, immature theory can transform into a modern, improved, or mature theoretical framework. This process is compensated by the dynamics of the challenges (contextual and methodological) this theory attempts to address, which will initiate new dynamics of formerly accepted concepts, paradigms, and definitions dynamics
Fig. 1 By evolution of its paradigms and concepts, immature theory can transform into a modern, improved, or mature theoretical framework. This process is compensated by the dynamics of the challenges (contextual and methodological) this theory attempts to address, which will initiate new dynamics of formerly accepted concepts, paradigms, and definitions to outline the future of landscape ecology. This future remains subject to a profound debate. Opdam et al. (2002) and Turner (2005) considered the integration of the geographical approach (focus on pattern) and the ecological approach (focus on process) as crucial. Understanding of how landscape pattern is related to the functioning of the landscape system, placed in the context of (changing) social values and land use is herewith essential; a necessary step to that goal is the integration of process knowledge from divergent disciplines (Moss 2000, Opdam et al. 2002). Naveh (1995) suggested that landscape ecology should provide a new conception of cultural landscapes and practical, holistic methods and tools, combining scientific knowledge with ecological wisdom and ethics. Landscape ecology should become a holistic problem-solving oriented science by joining the trans-disciplinary scientific revolution with a paradigm shift from conventional reductionistic and mechanistic approaches to holistic and organism approaches of wholeness, connectedness, and ordered complexity (Naveh 2000). For the sustainable management of landscapes, a better understanding of interactions between the landscapes and the cultural forces driving and shaping them, was considered essential (Naveh 1995). Even today, when the importance of the role of humans and their cultural impacts on landscapes is recognized more than ever, many landscape ecologists shy away from this "holism," and regard it - mistakenly - as a soft philosophical, ideological, or even mystical term for which there is no room in the world of such a respectable hard science as landscape ecology (Palang et al. 2000). Moreover, the goal for landscape ecology is to come out of (its) mono-disciplinary restrictions and to develop towards a comprehensive pluralistic and cross-disciplinary field where different views and approaches are integrated to generate synergies (Bastian 2001, Farina et al. 2005b, Wu 2006, Wu and Hobbs 2007). Landscape ecology must pursue the challenge to develop itself into an independent field (Farina 2001). Landscape ecologists are to be challenged to push landscape ecology to a higher level of maturation and to further develop its profile as a problem-oriented science (Opdam et al. 2002). To achieve this, modern landscape ecology should contribute more to the integration between the different environmental and economical sciences according to a common framework that is based on general system theory, environmental complexity, hierarchy theory, and on the multiscalar perception of complexity. A new general mosaic theory should be developed (Farina 2001). Field experiments should be expanded in space and time to include more categories of organisms, processes and scales, and to enable testing of hypotheses and modeling (D'Eon 2002, Bogaert et al. 2008). Integrative approaches in landscape research should be stimulated to overcome the overspecialization and fragmentation of environmental sciences, policies and education, which have led to isolated attempts in the solution of environmental problems; integration will also help to close the gap between theory and practice. Landscape ecology should therefore continue to rigorously test the generality of its conceptual frameworks (Turner 2005). This testing of paradigms of concepts should not be conceived as a standalone operation inside the discipline, but should cross boundaries between disciplines (Bogaert and Barima 2008).
This quest for an independent, mature, and cross-disciplinary landscape ecology forms the core of the current book. By introducing new concepts, by redefining existing terms and relationships, and by confronting formerly accepted paradigms to a novel context, landscape ecology is moved towards new frontiers and towards a new content. By substituting the existing concepts, an attempt is made to reform the discipline, leading towards a refined, well-outlined, complete, and unique science branch. This evolution is necessary for landscape ecology to survive in a world were science is challenged by new and more complex problems, at scales ranging from the molecule or gene level to the infinitely large, and from the local to the global dimension. This background of environmental problems at the local to global scale, and the discussion on sustainability, justifies the efforts put into modernizing landscape ecology, which could serve, together with other mission-driven transdis-ciplinary environmental sciences as a catalyst for the urgently needed postindustrial symbiosis between nature and human society (Naveh 2000). It seems clear that the domination and change of the biosphere by anthropogenic action will require these new approaches to understand the mechanisms located at the fringe between physical-biological and cognitive interfaces (Farina and Hong 2004). To contribute to this maturing process of landscape ecology, key concepts such as mosaic, ecological complexity, order/disorder, landscape perception, sustainability, or ecotone are put in a new perspective. Recently developed notions are discussed to broaden our view on landscapes and their functioning, like the eco-field and the cognitive landscape (Farina and Belgrano 2004, Farina et al. 2005a, b, Farina and Belgrano 2006). This is done deliberately to rebuild the foundations of landscape ecology.
When or where should this process of inducing dynamics in our discipline to strengthen its performance end? Is there a point at which it can be concluded that landscape ecology has reached a sufficient level of maturity at which more dynamics will only mystify? The existence of this end point is hard to predict, and its existence could even be contested, since the future environmental problems to be addressed by our society will be characterized by dynamics themselves (Fig. 1). Moreover, new theories, insights, and techniques will be developed in related fields of science that will enable landscape ecologists to tackle upcoming research questions in an alternative way. The current book will assist landscape ecologists in dealing with contemporary research issues, and it prepares for future challenges by offering an improved framework for landscape ecological research and teaching. This rethinking of the foundations of our discipline, should constitute a key effort of landscape ecologists of today, and of the future.
Bruxelles, Belgium Jan Bogaert
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