Patterned and Process Mosaics

The distinction between patterned mosaics and process mosaics depends largely on our capacity to intercept each category. The patterned mosaic, like the ones created by plant association, can be detected by our senses, although we perceive only one part of the complexity created by such mosaics.

The lunar landscape is without life; no organisms could enter into contact with such a mosaic. Only human technology allowed the landing of astronauts, but again the astronauts were confined to an earth atmosphere, the only contact with the moon landscape was visual. The same story could be experienced if, applying fantasy, we could imagine a trip to the center of the earth moving within fluid rocks.

The second category, the process mosaic is intercepted only by species-specific perceptional and cognitive mechanisms.

The economic balance in a rural society can not be easily observed using the vegetation mosaic, but nevertheless richness or poverty, abandonment or intensification in land use are the effects of economical processes that can not be detected directly (for instance using remote sensing procedures).

At this point it appears important to spend few words on these two types of mosaic:

1. The patterned mosaic, always detected by tools like the remote sensing technique (vegetation indices, aridity, biomass, plant diseases, etc.). This is the mosaic that exists over a broad range of scales and physical and biological domains. This is the mosaic that we perceive directly using our senses. It has been such perception that for a long time has created segregated disciplines each devoted to the study of a component of such mosaic; for example geology, stratigraphy, vegetation sciences, etc. Human culture often fears approaching this in a more holistic way. The holistic vision rejected by reductionistic science represents a short cut to perceive the complexity as an emergent phenomenon common to physical and biological worlds.

2. The process mosaic. This mosaic can be detected only after the interpretation of the effects produced. Such a mosaic, for example economy and environmental health, in effect represents the highest level of organization of complex systems. In this category we can include the cognitive mosaic created by the knowledge of an individual of the used surroundings.

So dealing with economic or cultural landscapes is not a simplification of the reality but a reality "tout court." In fact economy and culture represent emergent processes that transcends the individual habits but in turn produce changes on the single components of our society. Both require a great investment in research because their detection is not immediate.

Culture, for instance, is moving at a different velocity than economy and often represents a social buffer or, in some cases, a container or resistance to novelty.

At this time, the economy seems to be the emergent driver of social, political, and cultural compartments.

The mosaic paradigm helps reductionists open their mind to complexity as an emergent character of the real world.

There are two main ways for an organism to perceive the complexity: the first mechanism is direct perception of the heterogeneity in which a species is living. Such heterogeneity largely depends on the eco-field of focal organismic functions (see Chapters 8 and 9).

The second way is represented by the effects or constraints created by some processes that reduce the degree of freedom that such organisms have. De facto this reduces the "potential" fitness of the individual.

One such constraint is represented by intra and interspecific competition. Competition appears only when some conditions occur in the context in which a certain individual is living. Competition may be linked to available resources in the soil, light, or water for plants, or to food or territory if animals are considered.

Patterned mosaics have strong and direct scaled consequences on species, and represent the footprint in which most of the organismic functions are related. Such footprints play a fundamental role in species distribution, abundance and, more generally, individual fitness.

The process mosaics can be located in a second row in terms of importance and relationship. Competition becomes important, but the pre-requisite is represented in the case of a plant by the presence of biological soil.

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