When we introduce a new concept associated with a new word in science we aid in the shifting of a paradigm, which leads to an advancement of the science (Kuhn 1962). The habitat concept has also been used for a long time to define the place and the characteristics of the place in which a species can be observed. The habitat concept has also been used outside its original context to describe a type of plant or animal association. In practice, habitat has been recognized as a place with specific characteristics, and the original functional entity has been transformed into a structural entity like a house.
I'll try not to enter into discussion put forward by the opponents of the habitat concept. A huge amount of literature on this subject exists, but it is my intention to prove that the cognitive landscape, such as the summation of all the individual functions related to an eco-field, is a better fit for the investigation of living bio-ecological requirements of a species. This perspective affords extraordinary implications in species management and conservation.
If reality is a matter of organism perception, the perceptual domain can be localized into a space. Space is the phenomenological domain in which life exists, is modified, and moves towards extinction.
We introduce the definition of the eco-field as the ecological space where functional traits, or the niche axes, intercept the resources used to satisfy those needs according to a cognitive perception of the environment (Farina 2000, Farina and Belgrano 2004, 2006, Farina et al. 2005). The eco-field appears as a dynamic interference space within the physical world, in which internal functions and external processes interact continuously as a complex entity, and in which hostile and suitable elements alternate (Fig. 8.4).
The new term eco-field requires further explanation. It is strongly related to the Umwelt concept, but unlike the Umwelt, the eco-field has more ecological implications than the primarily behavioral implications of the Umwelt.
The term "eco" has been introduced to signify that we emphasize the functions, and that these functions are located within a space (sensu Maturana 1975).
The eco-field is a paradigm that is useful for many purposes and is linked with the semiotic concept of sign-signal and "representamen" (see later).
It is curious to find that von Uexkull, Maturana and Varela, and semioticians have described the same phenomenon (the "I" environment versus the "it" environment; see for more details Hoffmeyer 2008) using different approaches that converge toward a unified principle. These researchers have all inspired this synthesis and have stimulated my effort to reshape landscape theory into a more multicomprehensive system.
Life is cognition, the cognition is a semiotic closure, and cognition creates a frame of reference neighboring the Umwelt that is function-specific: the eco-field. New words for new concepts are the basis for a new science.
Following the Natural History paradigm, every ecosystem is characterized by builders (e.g. plants) and users (e.g. animals), but the eco-field allows a much more dynamic perspective that considers all species (plants and animals) to be like agents that play both active and passive roles according to a complex screenplay. In the active role, species enter into competition for resources with other species reacting to the constraints of evolution. In the passive role, species are used as substrate or patch, namely resources for other species-specific eco-fields. For instance, the
Fig. 8.4 Objects dispersed in a medium become meaning-carriers when a precise space configuration emerges and is recognized. In this case it is evident that the number of items (a) is not sufficient to assume per se a meaning but after precise positioning in space the collection of objects shows a specific meaning as a collective property (a smiling face) (b)
a b a b perception and utilization of a tree in an urban park can be different for squirrel, lizards, birds, or mushrooms. A tree is a patch for these species but alternatively becomes an individual and its Wohnhulle (von Uexkull 1982 (1940), 1992 (1934)) requires light, water, and nutrients.
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