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Ecology, from the Greek oikos meaning house, and logia, meaning the study of, is a term coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1899. Ecology has evolved to be a branch in science that studies the distributions, abundance, and relationships of organisms as well as interactions with the environment. Ecology includes the studies of populations, communities, and ecosystems.
We are facing an ecological crisis that is interdependent with social and economical crises. As populations grow, many other consequences are augmented, such as land use conversion and transformation, deforestation, soil loss, sedimentation, greenhouse gases production, and pollution. The climate change studies from the IPCC and the results obtained in the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) at the International Climate Summits does not present very favourable scenarios and it is likely that the current trend will continue. The challenge is global and the solutions are complex. No government alone can tackle these challenges in isolation. Nevertheless, the possibilities and potential of designing for ecological integration are enormous. The involvement of each of us in each one of our activities and fields of action is essential.
Getting to know your place is the first step.
Why a ecoregional approach?
An "ecoregion" is a relatively large unit of land containing a distinct assemblage of natural communities and species with boundaries that approximate the original extent of natural communities. The average size of the ecoregions in the study is of 56,300 square kilometers.
It is a challenge to understand the whole complexity of the structure and interactions that occur in a forest, prairie, jungle, or any given ecosystem. The complexity of the natural systems is a result of a 3.8 billion years process of experimentation that we call evolution. More than 30 million species thrive in our planet in all of the known environments. Humans have always tried to understand and explain the phenomena around us.
The patterns of species distribution observed in the world expresses a natural adaptation to certain characteristics and precise associations with other biotic and abiotic factors. Several models have been developed in the attempt to describe such patterns, each one uses distinctive array of components. Biophysical features such as rainfall, temperature, evapotranspiration, (Holdridge 1967) or vegetation structure (UNESCO 1969), spectral signatures from remote sensing data (Defries 1995), among others. The ecoregional approach presented here was taken from the work "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth" (2001) developed by a group of 18 lead researchers with extensive collaboration with over 1000 biogeographers, taxonomists, conservation biologists, and ecologists from around the world. This study categorizes 867 ecoregions within 14 biomes and eight biogeographic realms.
The ecoregions are intended primarily as units for conservation planning at a global and regional scale with a detailed level of biogeographic resolution. Since the ecoregions reflect the distribution of flora and fauna across the planet, it also serve as an excellent entry point for designers, architects, and planners to learn and understand the place where we live, work, and where our designs will nest into.
Getting to know your place is to care about the place and invites us to aspire to create a world through design that benefits all stakeholders involved, human and non-human.