Practical of aquatic ecology
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course is offered to Masters students and aims to transfer them cultural and operational tools for analysis of the main abiotic and biological components of aquatic environments (water, sediments, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish). At the end of the course the students are able to work in the field and in a chemical laboratory and for biological analysis, to identify representative sites, to make sampling correctly, to process the collected samples, to apply different chemical and biological quality indexes and to interpret them critically.
Five main training objectives are proposed.
1) Plan a sampling design of different environmental matrices correctly.
2) Learning to use field instruments for direct measurements in the environment, and for sampling and pre-treatment of samples.
3) Operate in a chemical laboratory through the learning of safety rules, reagent management, application of simple spectrophotometric methods.
4) Calculate autonomously chemical and biological quality indices with own data or literature data.
5) Critically interpret the returns of an index.
Course contents summary
The main objective of the course is to teach students the correct application of official chemical and biological quality indexes in inland water aquatic environments. During the course the official techniques of sampling and analysis of water, sediments, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fishes, and the formulation of chemical, biological and ecological indices, and their meaning are taught. The student must refer to the bases of functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the multiple relationships between environment and organisms.
The course has a strong practical / experimental character, and is organized in 5 modules.
Module 1. (7h) Elements for sampling, treatment and analysis of water.
Module 2. (6h) Elements for sediment sampling, treatment and analysis.
Module 3. (6h) Elements for sampling and analysis and indexing of macroinvertebrates
Module 4. (6h) Elements for sampling and analysis and indexing of macrophytes.
Module 5. (6h) Elements for sampling and analysis and indexing of fish.
Module 1. Criteria for the selection of water sampling sites; sampling tools, multi-parametric probes, sample storage, particle separation. Analysis of dissolved gases, main anions and cations, phytoplanktonic chlorophyll and suspended solids. Water quality indicators: calculation, meaning and application.
Module 2. Criteria for sediment sampling; sampling tools, sample storage, analysis of macrodescriptors of sediments (color, horizons, density, porosity, organic matter). Role of sediments in shallow aquatic environments: measurement of mineralization processes (oxygen demand, total respiration, denitrification) and nutrient recycling.
Module 3. Criteria for the sampling of macroinvertebrates: definition of representative sites, sizing of sampling effort, sorting and storage of samples. Reading and recognition keys in the field and in the laboratory. Macroinvertebrates and biomonitoring, quality indices of aquatic environments, limits and perspectives. Macroinvertebrates and facilitation: nutrient cycling and implications for primary producers
Module 4. Criteria for the sampling of macrophytes: definition of representative transects, sampling of sampling effort, storage of samples and recognition by means of reading keys. Macrophytes and eutrophication, structuring role of macrophytes for aquatic environments: biogeochemical implications, for the chemical quality of water and sediments and for the communities of macroinvertebrates and fish.
Module 5. Criteria for sampling fish: definition of representative transects, sampling of the withdrawal effort, recognition of the organisms taken and field measurements for the analysis of the community structure. Ittiofauna and biomonitoring, quality indices of aquatic environments based on the fish community, importance of the exotic species in the functioning of aquatic environments.
The course ends with a synthesis lesson in which the limits of each index are discussed.
5 protocoll handbooks are available for students, one for each module, in addition to IRSA-CNR official manuals for chemical methods of water analysis and guidelines for bioindication using macrofauna, macrophytes and fish. The material will be provided by the teacher in electronic format during the first lesson.
The teaching organization consists of a lecture in which the course is introduced, the teaching material is distributed and the content and methods of field campaigns, a module in the chemical laboratory and three modules in the field for sampling of different environmental matrices and for environmental measurements with portable instrumentation.
Assessment methods and criteria
Attendance to field and laboratory activities is a pre-requisite to be admitted to the final exam because the level of participation in the activities, and the compilation of field and laboratory reports are subject to evaluation by the teacher. A maximum of 25% absences is allowed (about 1 module), only for serious reasons that the student must justify appropriately. The evaluation of participation in the activities contributes to 30% of the final vote. At the end of the course the student must take a test (30 questions), most with multiple answers while a few open. The test vote contributes to 70% of the final grade
The final mark is in thirtieths; the minimum grade is 18, the maximum is 30, the possible award is given only to students who actively participate in the workshops and field trips during the course.