Learning outcomes of the course unit
The ecology course deals with the scientific background of ecology as it has developed in the last century. Among the main education purposes, a problem solving approach will be also applied in order to address environmental management and conservation items.
background in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology
Course contents summary
Background. The abiotic environment. Organisms and environment: environmental conditions and adaptation. Population ecology: structure, growth, and main interactions among populations. Community ecology: organisation and trophic structure. Ecological succession. Biodiversity. Ecosystem ecology: energy flow and biogeochemical cycling.
Basic concept and hystory of ecology. Hyerarchical organization of ecological systems and emerging properties.. Spatial and temporal scaling in ecology. .
Physical factors and climate. Chemical elements with atomic number < 30 and ecology: biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lytosphere. Water and thermal regulation. Energy and ecological systems.
Environmental conditions and organism adaption. Habitat. Niche. Tolerance and stress.
Population ecology. Metapopulations. Main sampling methods. Exponential growth. Resource limitation, itraspecific competitiona and logistic growth. Interspecific competition: the Lotka-Volterra equations. Prey-predator interactions. Mutualism, simbiosi, parasitism, mimicry, coevolution.
Community ecology. Organization and trophic structure. Trophic cascade interactions, top down e bottom up controls. Network analysis. Ecological succession.
Biodiversity: Hutchinson and the Homage to Santa Rosalia. Phenotipic, genotic, species, ecosystem and landscape diversity. Biodiversity monitoring. Ecological indices. Factor affecting biodiversity: latitude, productivity, moderate stress hypothesis, species-area relationships, Island biogeography.
Ecosystem ecology. The carbon cycle as the link between biotic and abiotic systems. Primary production and organic matter decomposition: reactions, processes and limiting factors. Conceptual models of ecological energetics: Elton, Lindeman, Odum. Number, biomass and Energy pyramids. Food webs. A critics to ecosystem ecology: Rigler, Peters and the New Ecology.
Main biogeochemical cycles: water cycle. Water as a solvent. Ecological stoichiometry. Matter cycles in tropical rain forest, temperate deciduous forest, lake and agri-system. Background of C, N, P, Fe and S cycles and their interactions. Perturbation of biogeochemical cycles and environmental pollution: greenhouse effect, acid rain, eutrophication: Basic concept of environmental buffering capacity, resilience and regime shift.
Measurements of basic physical and chemical variables
Tutorial on species-area relationships in a grass system
Smith T.M., Smith R.L., Elements of Ecology. Pearson Education
tutorials and field works (30%)
Assessment methods and criteria
mid-term written test
final oral examination