Learning outcomes of the course unit
This course aims at providing the background of modern ecology. Emphasis is posed on the role of ecology as a skill for graduates, who are requested to address the main issues on management and conservation of natural resources and management and remediation of altered environmental processes.
At the end of the course, students are expected to be able to
- know and analyze fundamental topics of general ecology: adaptation of organisms to environment, ecology of population and community, structure and processes of the ecosystem,
- - use these knowledge to solve problems on: limiting factors, competition and evaluation of the environmental quality;
- identify and analyze, at least in general terms, environmental problems linked to the agricultture and livestock, and agri-food sectors, which are assessed either as cause or target of environmental pollution; degraded ecosystem functioning, and over-exploitation of natural resources.
The basic concept of chemistry, geology and biology will be summarized in the introductory lectures.
Course contents summary
This course is made of two parts.
The first part deals with the main concepts of ecology so that they contribute to shape the professional profile of the students in the field of agri-food economy sector.
The second part is focused on how ecology can contribute to solve environmental problems related to agriculture, livestock and agricultural industries (e.g. pollution, biodiversity loss, conservation of natural resources, management of altered environmental processes) .
PRESENTATION OF BASIC CONCEPTS
hierarchical organization of ecological systems.
- Main abiotic factors. Environmental conditions and adaptations of organisms. Habitat, niche, tolerance and stress.
- Unspecific populations: characteristics, structure, growth modalities with and without limitation from resources.
- Community of populations: characteristics, structure and functioning. Interactions between populations: competition, predation. Community development over time.
- Ecosystems. Conceptual models of energetics: pyramids of numbers, biomass and energy. Primary production and decomposition: reactions, processes and limiting factors.
- Main biogeochemical cycles: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus. Altered cycles: eutrophication; greenhouse effect, acid rain
- Biodiversity (outline)
PRESENTATION OF APPLIED ECOLOGY ISSUES DEALING WITH THE AGRICULTURAL, ZOOTECHNICAL AND AGRO-INDUSTRIAL SECTORS:
- land use transformations and water pollution: the nitrate problem;
- waste management in the agro-zootechnical sector: waste or resource?
- sewage treatment;
- crop simplifications and biodiversity;
- ecological redevelopment in agriculture (PAC and RDP);
- ecosystem services.
CASE STUDY: economic development and environmental problems in the Po RIVER basin.
The slides and teacher’s notes can be downloaded from the ELLY section "Teaching Materials"
Galassi S., Ferrari I., Viaroli P., 2014. Introduzione all’ecologia applicata. Dalla teoria alla pratica della sostenibilità. CittàStudi, Torino
The course is organized into three main activities:
1) Lectures of the teacher in which the main concepts of modern ecology are presented;
2) presentation of topics of applied ecology related to the agricultural, zootechnical and agro-industrial sectors: land use transformations and water pollution: the nitrate problem; waste management in the agro-zootechnical sector: waste or resource; sewage treatment; crop simplifications and biodiversity; ecological upgrading; ecosystem services
3) Case study.
Assessment methods and criteria
The achievement of the goals is verified with a test over 2 hours..
The test consists on average of 5 multiple-choice questions, and 5 open-questions. Each question will be rated with a score equivalent to its difficulty.
The final score is given by the sum of the scores of the individual questions up to 33. The exam is passed with minimum score 18, and score 33 is rated cum laude.
Examples of tests are available in the "Teaching Material" section.