This course aims at introducing students to the structural and functional characteristics of freshwater ecosystems. Special attention is paid to the relationships between abiotic and biotic factors to understand the ecological processes, functioning and baseline variability of freshwater ecosystems, and evaluate the effects of different types of disturbances in order to define conservation, mitigation and restoration programs.
Before attending this course, students must have completed basic ecology courses and possess a background information on aquatic ecology.
Course contents summary
Socio-economic aspects related to the use of aquatic resources. Definitions and assessment of the ecosystem functioning, reference information for planning environmental restoration measures, operational strategies . Legislative aspects concerning management and conservation of freshwater ecosystems. Quality indexes and indicators for lakes and rivers. Review of recovery and mitigation techniques applied to aquatic ecosystems and ecological assessment of their effectiveness. Elements of conservation strategies of freshwater habitats and their biodiversity.
Freshwater and society. Freshwater ecosystem services. Current status and threats of freshwater ecosystems. Definitions of “ecosystem functioning”. Conceptual basis of ecosystem management. Adaptive management and adaptive monitoring. The watershed perspective towards the management of water resources. Present state and vulnerability of Italian inland waters to local pressures and climate change. Legal and administrative aspects for the management of water bodies. Basic concepts of the Water Framework Directive and the schedule of its implementation. Lakes and trophic state. Point and non-point sources of pollution. Trophic state criteria and nutrient loading criteria. Carlson's Trophic State Index. Open and fixed boundary systems. OECD trophic classification methods. Vollenweider’s models. Biological monitoring of lakes and streams. Indexes for the assessment of river water quality and functioning. Overview of restoration principles and techniques with specific application to freshwater aquatic systems negatively affected by human activities (e.g., physical alterations, water acidification, cultural eutrophication, etc.). Effectiveness of restoration projects. Examples of how scientific information is used in decision-making from published literature. Conservation of freshwater habitats and biodiversity. Group discussions on relevant topics. Seminars with invited speakers.
Sabater S., A. Elosegi (Eds). 2013. River conservation: challenges and opportunities. Fundación BBVA, 399 pp.
Viaroli P. (Ed.). 2014. Stato attuale e tendenze evolutive negli ecosistemi di acque interne e di transizione in Italia. Biologia Ambientale 28(2):3-111.
Further reading materials (e.books, scientific papers, etc.) will be provided by the teacher.
Regular class lectures and seminar activities. Whenever possible, field trips will be performed.
Assessment methods and criteria
The final grade will be determined by an oral interview on the topics covered by the course (50% of grade) and a short PowerPoint presentation (10 mins max., 10 slides max.) on a case study previously agreed with the teacher (50% of grade).