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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 46, Issue 2/3, 2018

Riin Magnus, Tiit Remm
Pages 319-342

Urban ecosemiotics of trees
Why the ecological alien species paradigm has not gained ground in cities?

The transportation and translocation of species beyond their natural habitats is considered to be one of the major causes of biodiversity loss these days. Concerns are growing also about urbanization and the resulting destruction of natural habitats. At the same time, the integration of urban environments into nature protection efforts has brought along the intent to apply the ecological alien species paradigm in cities. Yet, as the practices of urban landscaping demonstrate, this objective has not been achieved. In this article, we propose that the reasons behind it are largely related to the specifics of the city as a semiotic system. Multiplicity of codes and subjects of various origins is contested by the ecological alien species paradigm, yet characteristic of the urban semiotic environment. The city often serves the function of a cultural model, embodying the principles of setting the borders between Self and the Other. Also in this case, the ecological alien species paradigm has to face a different complex of meanings attributed to the Other. We demonstrate how two different models of the city are expressed in the interpretations of alien trees by using pyramid oaks and poplars in Estonia as an example.

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