The Matrix as the Container of the Ecological Complexity

The ecosystem is defined as a complex level of organization in which animals, plants, and physical components interact. But it can also be considered as the context in which energy, carbon, or nutrient cycles operate.

The original (Tansley 1935) and the modern views of the ecosystem (Golley 1993) relate to the concept of function.

Although such conceptualization has been accepted worldwide, some aspects remain unclear. For instance, how can an ecosystem be delimited, how can we distinguish different ecosystems, and how can an ecosystem interact with another ecosystem? What are the relationships between other synthetic visions of our environment, like communities, meta-communities, and landscapes?

Some people consider a landscape as a system of ecosystems, but again this simplification of the reality is based on two assumptions (system, ecosystems) that, instead of reinforcing each other, create an exponential vagueness.

For this and many other reasons we try to view the complexity of interacting organisms, processes and related patterns in a very destructured way, calling a piece of real world simply an ecological matrix. Such a matrix is the reference for all the processes linked to physical and biological events.

The matrix in landscape ecology is defined as the major cover in which objects are interspersed. In a lightly fragmented forest, the matrix is represented by forests, and patches may be clearings or developed areas. This vision is useful to develop new ideas, but it is too geographically and descriptively oriented. In fact, when we compare the relationship between organisms and such mosaics, very often the searched for relationships appear weak or absent.

This is a good reason to reconsider carefully such types of vision of our complexity.

The top-bottom mechanism is full of possible misinterpretations, and we know very well that the motor of all the systems is evolution. But evolution is active at the gene level, not at the level of ecosystems, or at the level of landscape matrices. No precise replies can be produced today without the introduction of a serious amount of biases.

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