Learning outcomes of the course unit
This course aims at introducing students to the structural and functional characteristics of freshwater ecosystems, and at giving an overview of the main aquatic communities. Special attention is paid to the relationships between abiotic and biotic factors.
Course contents summary
Molecular structure and properties of water. Optical properties of water: irradiance attenuation coefficient and transparency. Seasonal thermal cycles and heat budgets in lakes. Water movements in lakes. Basic water chemistry of lakes: electric conductivity, salinity, pH, alkalinity. Dissolved oxygen. The biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, sulphur and silica in lakes. The role of biota in the nutrient cycles. Trophic state of lakes.
Taxonomic and functional classification of the freshwater phytoplankton. General characteristics of the lacustrine zooplankton (Rotifers, Cladocerans, Copepods): morphology, development, feeding, reproductive modes, diapause and quiescence, cyclomorphosis, vertical migrations. Seasonal succession of zooplankton communities. Zoobenthos: taxonomic and functional classificaton criteria, spatial gradients of community structure, trophic role. Interstitial and hyporheic fauna.
Methods for measuring primary production, secondary production and microbial activity in water ecosystems. Study of trophic relationships in lentic and lotic systems.
Biological assessment of water quality. Changes in aquatic communities due to water pollution. Impacts of the introduction of exotic species in inland waters.
Field and/or laboratory experiences.
Reading materials (e-books and scientific papers) will be available from the teacher’s website.
Other suggested readings:
Bertoni R. 2006. Laghi e scienza. Introduzione alla limnologia. Aracne Editrice.
Brönmark C., L.-A. Hansson. 1999. The biology of lakes and ponds. Oxford University Press.
Giller P.S., B. Malmqvist. 1999. The biology of streams and rivers. Oxford University Press.
Smith D.G. 2001. Pennak's freshwater invertebrates of the United States. 4th edition. John Wiley & Sons.
Wetzel R.G. 2001. Limnology: lake and river ecosystems. 3rd edition. Academic Press.