Space and Landscape

Landscape is defined in a physical realm. This is quite clear and not considered an element for further discussion. But if we select a space in which we say, "this is my landscape of interest," are the borders real borders or are they borders that cope with some selected processes?

Two main views can be discussed now. The first is that a landscape is composed of functional units, independent from our observation, and the second is that these units are attributed to a space.

We strongly believe that both systems exist. In the first case the delineation of the space is not produced by the observer, but by an observer-independent process. The observer recognizes the place in which a physical discontinuity appears, like between savanna and tropical forest, or montane treeline. In this case it is not a matter of scaled observation.

This explanation seems very simple and direct, but is strongly conditioned by the limits of discrimination that are inherent to the observer. Are there other limits that are outside our range of observation and that are responsible for processes later detected?

Finally, we can address two different concepts: the visible (coupled) and the invisible (un-coupled) landscape.

The visible landscape is a system that is delineated by tracking limits observed directly and by a coincident vision of the processes that are responsible for such limits: Processes and patterns observed at the same time, are coupled.

For instance, when one observes the shadow under a tree, one can distinguish the shape of the tree and one can link this form with the position of the sun light and thereby fully understand the process of shading.

But when one observes the colonization of trees in an abandoned field, one's vision is limited to the patterns created by the vegetation but one can not observe the process that has generated such modification. The abandonment of the field pertains to a socio-economic domain not visible using physical sensors. The land's abandonment can't be visualized, but the effects can be visualized. It should be an error of belief to explain just in terms of secondary succession. This method of self-explanation is superficial and not correct from an epistemological point of view.

Maturana and Varela (1980) have defined space as "the domain of all the possible relations and interactions of a collection of elements that the properties of these elements define." It is not difficult to adopt this idea of space as synonymous with landscape, as is intended today by most authors. This vision may appear too general, but it is exactly the way in which our science and society address the problems, and from which springs the concept of complexity. Time requires new concepts like evolution and adaptation, processes that require successive steps. Landscape is a domain in which time allows different entities to move into organizational status and dynamics. Time is a necessary ingredient to create an organized entity: it is a process of organization, or, is the organization per se. Organization refers to a sequence of acts that move an entity from one space to another, assuming functions. Time and organization can be considered two faces of the same phenomenology. But since you can't destroy the time, similarly, you can't destroy organization. You can modify organization, substituting with another form of organization. Even a paroxysmal event does not destroy. Rather it modifies this organization, substituting elements with others and respecting the memory of the system.

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