It is more and more evident that our living system is completely disturbed by human intrusion. Such intrusion affects the functioning of entire systems in ways we do not yet fully understand. We use paradigms such as the disturbance to cover large and deep gaps in our scientific knowledge.
Human ecology is an uncertain terrain for anthropologists, geographers, and ecologists and rarely is expanded to include the social and economic realms. The integration of different disciplines and the application of their many paradigms to problems of environmental complexity remains a distant goal despite the many efforts that have been made to achieve it. Philosophical and semantic barriers are erected when such integration is pursued by pioneering scientists.
Recently, evolutionary ecology has shown great interest in the spatial processes well described by the emerging discipline of landscape ecology. But this interest takes the form of pure curiosity or at worst, of skepticism toward the real capacity of landscape ecology to contribute to the advancement of ecological science.
The past two centuries have been characterized by huge changes occurring in the entire ecosphere. Global changes are the effects of human intervention at a planetary scale, with consequent degradation of the environment creating an ecological debt for future generations. On the other side of the issue, new technologies have improved the welfare of billions of people and have given hope to many other billions that they may also see such improvement in the near future.
New economics, faster movement of populations, resource deterioration, and global nets of rapidly moving information are some of the relevant effects of this time.
Recently, J. Lawton invoked the birth of a new science known as Earth System Science. I agree with this idea, although not on the title, to develop a more integrated science able to link together different processes including those from economics and politics.
Human societies are facing structural and organizational changes at an increased rate and demand new visions of these changing realities. We must become able to anticipate future scenarios, and to arrange new and more efficient tools to reduce, compensate, and remediate the environmental deterioration.
The present time is characterized by societies more and more implicated in the forceful management of natural resources and by the disappearance of natural as well as cultural values.
For this reason it is urgent to find new tools able to detect the everyday modifications of our living support system. Global changes modify patterns, processes, and species diversity. These changes occur along a broad range of spatial and temporal scales and across many relevant processes. It is urgent to determine where in the real world such changes occur. Such places in the real world become hot spots, or areas where genetic variability is high and where organisms perceive their biological limits.
For this and many other reasons I introduce, adopting different perspectives, landscape ecology as a new framework from which to investigate and speculate on environmental complexity and on the constraints regulating natural dynamics. The goal is to create a bridge from ecosystem ecology to landscape ecology and the complexity of the real world dominated by humans.
For many years the landscape has been considered both a reference concept and a place to develop metrics useful for the management of natural resources and, more generally, to understand the human interaction with the environment. The landscape can be considered as an entity emerging from the interaction of different species and their integrated biophysical processes.
Many contributions have discussed whether the landscape is a subject to be addressed in a multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary way. I strongly believe that to study the landscape we need a new science. This is the main aim of this book and my final goal is to demonstrate that a robust theoretical basis is required to make significant progress in this field.
It is difficult to abandon well recognized and popular paradigms and to venture in unknown directions at the frontiers of a discipline. It is with this feeling that I embark upon this new book.
In this short book I'll try to approach the landscape quite differently, and will propose new ideas, concepts, and possible applications in order to move out of the stagnation into which landscape ecology has fallen.
This book's main priority is to develop a robust theory on the landscape, proposing new ideas and revising the influential literature produced since Carl Troll introduced the first foundations of landscape ecology in the first half of the 20th century.
In particular two theories are discussed: the general theory of resources and the mosaic theory. The first considers the landscape a semiotic interface individual specific, the second recognized the role of the (land) mosaic as a major driver of ecosystemic processes. The two visions are not in competition but represent two ways of approaching the complexity of the real world and to clearly define the spatial dimension.
Both theories require several paradigms and distinct tools and may receive different levels of attention according to the cultural background of the scholars.
Adopting a simple metaphor we could say that the general resources theory describes the organism's perception and cognition of the world with the feet poised firmly on the land. The mosaic theory describes a world observed from an orthogonal distance from the soil. The representation of the reality is based on an aerial perspective and shape and size (patterns) of spatial objects act as major drivers of the ecological processes.
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