We will use the word "domain" to indicate the context in which we are operating, the universe in which a process occurs, evolves, or is maintained, a field in which some phenomena occur in an exclusive way.
Often we erroneously describe phenomena as being apparently linked to each other but in reality they belong to different domains and the landscape as an entity must be referred necessarily to a specific domain.
In other words they do not all occur together, but most phenomena occur in separate domains. Hierarchy theory is an attempt to describe these domains; unfortunately, this theory has created confusion because, as explained, it has hierarchical nested elements when in reality the described items are parts of different domains. In fact domains are not necessarily hierarchically arranged and often have a parallel reference. When many domains share common elements we can use the word "meta-domains."
Many meta-domains contribute to the definition of landscape: environment, culture, economy, religion, and policy are the major composing domains.
Domain is very close to the niche concept. The niche in ecology is the range of the entirety of biological characters. We can first make a distinction between non-corporeal (cognitive) and material (physical) domains. This distinction is important whether we consider ourselves as observers or as organisms directly involved in biological processes.
Human processes are referred to in five main domains: religion, culture, economy, policy, and environment. Apparently divided and separated they are in reality the meta-domain of humanity.
Religion, culture, economy, and policy pertain to a human meta-domain, and environment is apparently distinct. But most human actions have two main targets, humanity "per se" and the environment. Actions toward humanity try to modify uses, rules, ethnic domination, economic and health fitness. The actions toward the environment try to optimize the use of resources. Humanity is strongly influenced by decisions at every level of social organization, and it seems useless to discuss it. In modern societies, policy occupies a central place in this matter, protruding its tentacles in every direction of humanity. Policy is a very active process that rejuvenates the physiology of human societies. The mechanisms that self-guide the society are like fuel in a machine. The fuel is represented by new ideas about societal organization, the personal will to dominate the economic system. All are ingredients that are considered under the umbrella of policy. Morality and ethics rarely play a central role, and often it is only public agreement that guides the process, at least in democracies.
Conversely, religion is a conservative domain that tries to stabilize human processes at every scale and in every type of society. Religions create a non self-referential domain, conversely, culture, policy, and economy are self-referential domains that act through a circular closure and have an adapting behavior according to the feedback between singular components.
It is our opinion that landscape ecology should be considered as a science that studies the integration of these different domains and meta-domains. The influence of every domain is not considered in modern sciences because each discipline has been created in limited and distinct domains. Landscape science should consist of the product of convergent processes and integrated meta-domains.
The landscape domain is the highest level at which we can consider the complexity human beings perceive. This domain embraces many other domains and the elements that compose this domain are other distinct domains.
Physical and cognitive domains are the proximate domains to the landscape domain. Other meta-domains can be found at the periphery of this domain. In order to understand this book, it is necessary to accept this assumption. Humanity can live without the landscape paradigm, but a task of culture and particularly of science is to help common people to better understand the complexity of the living and educate them to tolerate and accept different perspectives. Finally, the tools to investigate such meta-domains are extracted from many disciplines including ecology, biology, sociology, economics, and psychology.
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