One of the papers from the New York gathering in biosemiotics that have been uploaded online is Jonathan Beever's (Purdue University) 'Meaning Matters: The Biosemiotic Basis of Ethics'. My 2003 article "Umwelt ethics" is treated pp 6-8.
I am highly sympathetic to Jonathan's ongoing work.Despite facing difficulties as a coherent and prescriptive approach to justifying moral value, biosemiotics and the work of Hoffmeyer, Tønnesson, and Kull mark an important milestone in our thinking about value. [...] a biosemiotic approach offers both an empirical methodology and an inherently holistic foundation of moral value.
Biosemiotics has the empirical potential to avoid transcendent explanations of morally relevant properties. Furthermore, it offers an account of the source and scope of value that is foundational to popular accounts such as those based on sentience.