The Composition of the Landscape

Assuming a neutral landscape that exists outside the individual's explicit perception, in such a landscape energy, information, signals, memory, and cognition are active, all of which are under cybernetic control mechanisms. Forms in a landscape are produced by processes related to the individuals as well as to processes driven by the emergent properties of the multitude of individuals.

Imagine now a completely bare land, without any form of life, and we can then imagine a dynamic that progressively creates life and interactions (see for instance the ecological succession paradigm). Instead of registering the processes and their typology, we register the magnitude and frequency of the distinct processes. At this point we observe a repetition of at least three main processes that I call "opportunities," "events," and "novelties." These three typologies of processes are common to every landscape and for this I consider their description important.

Two main forces are acting in the landscape arena: a subjective force that is represented by the individual-based perception of the landscape [see the eco-field concept (Farina and Belgrano 2004, Farina et al. 2005)] and an "objective" force that is the stochastic result of emergent properties of the units composing the (system) landscape. These two visions operate in meta-domains that do not overlap.

The individual, namely a plant, a bacterium or a man, is an active component of landscape formation changing the neighboring context (the eco-field, Farina 2000, Farina and Belgrano 2004) and contemporarily controlled by components of the same neighboring context. An individual (plant, bacterium, man) or a system contributes to the landscape formation in an active fashion by modifying the neighboring attributes and at the same time is constrained by this context.

When we are dealing with a landscape, the focal point is never a single individual, such as a tree, a bacterium, or a mammal, but the focal point is, at the very least, populations that by aggregation form the patches of a mosaic.

Two main phenomena can be considered as part of landscape ontogenesis: the processes that guarantee the invariance in biological forms (genetic control) and the stochasticity of aggregations of biological forms and associated physical constraints. In this analysis, I'll consider only the phenomena linked to the stochasticity of the aggregation, although it would be an error to underestimate the role of biological form in shaping a landscape. For instance the concept of umbrella and/or key-stone species is very popular in ecology (see Paine 2002).

First we have to assume that the cognitive component of these aggregations (or patches, when distinct from a background) is not explicit like the cognition of individuals. The new emergent properties (created by numerosity) cannot be handled in a direct way because they do not depend on a sequence of codes, as the DNA of individuals, but they are driven by other forces that often escape our capacity of description and finally of understanding.

For these reasons, to deal with the genesis and dynamics of landscapes, a probabilistic language (informative language) is used to identify key processes.

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