The landscape is a recently investigated domain of the real world. The number of studies with the landscape as a focal object has grown exponentially since the 1980s. Many definitions of the landscape and its theoretical and applied subdisciplines are present in the literature, often creating great confusion about its vocabulary and ideas.
To form a new science we need recognized principles and efficient tools; both ingredients are already in the basket of landscape principles. The principles come from different theories that show extraordinary convergent properties: the General System Theory (von Bertalanffy 1969), the Semiotic Theory (Eco 1975), the Autopoiesis Theory (Maturana and Varela 1980), and finally the Ecological Theory (Scheiner and Willig 2007).
Among the various sciences that have found the landscape to be a possible subject to be studied and managed, ecology has the privilege to approach this study in a holistic way (sensu Naveh 2000), mixing together different components of environmental complexity.
The studies that have been carried out in recent years have been based upon the conviction that the landscape is an entity rich in information that has emergent properties. These patterns are the product of the processes and vice versa, that most of the processes are scale-dependent and that a hierarchical organization forms the basis of the landscape, are other fundamental assertions of these recent studies.
Furthermore, there have been many disputes about the definition of the landscape and about the opportunity to consider the influence upon the landscape domain of human processes, for instance economic processes, and cultural and political issues (Naveh 2000).
For many landscape ecologists, the landscape is a large container of different processes that interact with each other to create the observed complexity. For others, this vision is metaphysical and not scientifically correct, so it is rejected. Finally, for others, the landscape is a geographic (physical) space in which many different phenomena that can be observed are formally described.
It is time to create order in this young discipline, and also to respect the expectations of developers, environmental managers, and policy makers.
A. Farina, Ecology, Cognition and Landscape, Landscape Series 11,
DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3138-9_2, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
In the first chapter I presented landscape ecology as a relevant discipline tracing back its recent story of successes and failures. It is now time to discuss new ideas and concepts with the hope of bringing order to a field in which basic research and applications are often confused from an epistemological viewpoint. The recent criticisms made by ecologists largely depend on the use of a gestalt approach from practitioners and applied scientists on one side, and on the use of too many mathematical models by spatial ecologists on the other.
First of all, it is necessary to define the subject (landscape) and secondly the domain of such a subject which is not an easy task according to the premises and discussion in the first chapter.
The landscape can be considered contemporarily as the container of physical and cognitive entities (Fig. 2.1). Cognitive entities are expressed by rules and values; physical entities by soil-water categories, plant or animal spatial aggregations. Cognitive entities are represented by a network of eco-semiotic interactions between organisms and the species-perceived surroundings.
Fig. 2.1 Physical and Landscape cognitive properties _L
characterize the landscape "entity" but for both the „
properties borders and ,Pr°PertleS properties delimitation are necessary
Borders or Delimitation
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