Emphasis on heterogeneity begs questions of the relationship between pattern and process. Simply put, heterogeneity is about structural and functional patterns that deviate from uniform and random arrangements. It is this pervasively common nonhomogeneous characteristic that makes spatial patterns ecologically important as it suggests nontrivial relationship to underlying processes. Thus, studying pattern without getting to process is superficial, and understanding process without reference to pattern is incomplete. Emphasis on heterogeneity also makes scale a critically important issue because heterogeneity, as well as the relationship between pattern and process, may vary as the scale of observation or analysis is changed. Thus, whenever heterogeneity is emphasized, spatial structures, underlying processes, and scale inevitably become essential objects of study. From this perspective, landscape ecology is a science of heterogeneity and scale. On the other hand, with increasing human dominance in the biosphere, emphasis on broad spatial scales makes it inevitable to deal with humans and their activities. As a consequence, humanistic and holistic perspectives have been and will continue to be central in landscape ecological research.
The above arguments also, in part, explain the two seemingly disparate views that have become known as the European and North American perspectives in landscape ecology. The world is already too fragmented ecologically, economically, and socially, and we certainly do not need a landscape ecology for each continent! As discussed earlier, the two perspectives should be viewed as being complementary rather than contradictory. To increase the synergies between the two approaches, not only do we need to appreciate the values of each, but also to develop an appropriate framework by which different perspectives and methods can be integrated. This requires a pluralistic and multiscale perspective (Figure 2). Landscapes out there are messy and are increasingly being messed up. Landscape ecology not only is expected to provide scientific understanding of the structure and functioning of various landscapes, but also pragmatic guidelines and tools with which order and sustainability can be created and maintained for the everchanging landscapes.
See also: Fitness Landscapes; Habitat; Landscape Modeling; Landscape Planning; Land-Use Modeling; Metapopulation Models; Scale; Spatial Distribution; Spatial Distribution Models; Sustainable Development.
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