Management and conservation of inland aquatic ecosystems
Learning outcomes of the course unit
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
Learning outcomes will be evaluated at two levels, which counts equally toward the final score.
1) During the course, students are requested to self-organize and self-manage a workshop on "Ecological bases for management and conservation of inland waters". The students identify and assign topics to be presented and discussed with 10 slides, 10 minutes for presentation, and 10 minutes for discussion. All students are required to ask questions and to participate in the discussion. The teacher will be present but will not intervene. The date of the workshop will be announced at the start of the course.
2) At the end of the course, each student will focus on a specific case study (previously agreed with the teacher) dealing with the management and/or conservation of inland water ecosystems, based on current scientific literature. The exam consists of the presentation and discussion of this topic (approximately 10 slides, 10 minutes for the talking part, and 10 minutes for the discussion).
For both activities, the evaluation of the final score will be based on three components: 50% for scientific and technical contents (paying particular attention to learning skills and applying knowledge and understanding), 25% for the quality of the presentation (paying particular attention to communication skills), and 25% for the discussion (paying particular attention to making judgements).