Introduction

In complete agreement with the thoughts of Kuhn (1962), scientific research similarly to other human activities provides a service that is intimately associated with time, place, and culture. In other words, scientific research intercepts the needs of human society and tries to describe the related processes. In particular over the last few years the landscape paradigm has become more and more popular. But it seems to the author an impossible mission to describe and monitor all the changes that have occurred along the geographical land zones around the world. As elucidated by Robert MacArthur (1972), every place on our Planet has a specific ecology and if we exclude the organismic teleonomy of the biological components (virus, bacteria, plants, and animals) that react to general metabolic allometric rules (Brown et al. 2004), ecosystems and landscapes appear to be systems functioning under local constraints and surrounding stochasticity.

In the time of MacArthur (1960s and 1970s) the landscape was not recognized as an ecological entity but only as a geographical entity.

Today it is recognized that a landscape is the result of meta-ecosystemic processes coupled with cognitive ones, where energy, information, and cybernetic mechanisms are interacting and integrating to produce emergent patterns (mosaics) and processes (resource-oriented suitability).

On several occasions ecologists have categorized problems, needs, and environmental priorities associated with indicators, actions, and recommendations (see Lubchenco et al. 1991). Commendable has been the effort made by Rapport (Rapport et al. 1998) to consider the ecosystem as a unitarian entity introducing the concept of "ecosystem health."

But despite the huge amount of articles and special issues that have appeared in important magazines like Nature and Science the ecology of landscapes in a global scenario has had a negligible impact (see Myers et al. 2000).

Today financial and economic mechanisms seem to be the major actors able to modify the functions and speed of the Earth's gears. The recent worldwide financial crisis has cascade effects on most countries in the world and is perceived by the population as more dramatic than climatic changes. Probably this is related to

A. Farina, Ecology, Cognition and Landscape, Landscape Series 11,

DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3138-9_1, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

the contemporarity of the crisis when compared to global changes that have local diachronic effects.

Unlike economy, ecology is a science that studies natural machines and does not have operational tools able to modify such a project but only educational tools such as "The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" to inform about the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being, alerting people to present and future damage observed in natural modified ecosystems.

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