Learning outcomes of the course unit
Provide an up-to-date summary of knowledge and abilities on problems of biodiversity research, management and conservation through the integration of specialist contributions brought by experts of various disciplines (palaeontology and biogeography, botany, zoology and genetics, basic and applied ecology, landscape ecology, anthropology), involved in the unit.
Communicate essential information on the progress of basic knowledge and on the development of methodologies for analysing biodiversity. A decisive contribution to these goals is made by the experience gained
during the nature week that takes place with the participation of all the course students and of geology, botany, zoology and ecology professors.
Basic statistical and mathematical grounding and basic grounding in the fundamental disciplines (from geology to palaeontology and biogeography, from botany to zoology and ecology) for analysis of habitats and ecosystems and associated biodiversity.
Course contents summary
The unit is structured in two sections, the first consisting of lectures and seminars on biodiversity, the second centred on the field study of biodiversity, during a whole nature campaign week. The contents of the lectures and the seminars are sequenced as follows:
1. Introduction. Interdisciplinary structure of the course and its thematic organization. Scientific and managerial aims.
2. Evolution of biodiversity in the planet's history. Evidence produced by palaeontology. The great ''mass extinctions''.
3. Biodiversity gradients at the scale of the planet. Contribution of biogeography to the development of a biodiversity theory.
4. Problems and methods of study of floristic and vegetational biodiversity at habitat and landscape scale: state of knowledge and summary of evidence regarding factors and processes that significantly affect biodiversity spectra and trends.
5. Problems and methods of study of biodiversity of zoocenoses: state of knowledge and summary of evidence regarding factors and processes that significantly affect biodiversity spectra and trends.
6. Biodiversity at genetic level: state of knowledge and summary of evidence regarding factors and processes of considerable impact on genetic structure and variability of populations.
7. Methods of measuring biodiversity. Models for space-time analysis of biodiversity. Basic data and cartography for estimating biodiversity and evaluating changes connected with the variability of the main environmental determinants.
8. The main contributions of ecological research (from population ecology to landscape ecology) to biodiversity. Biodiversity and functions and ''services'' of ecosystems. Relations between disturbance, biodiversity, ecosystem functions, resistance and resilience.
9. The influence of man on biodiversity and its changes. Biological diversity and cultural diversity: role of cultural factors in biodiversity management.
The nature campaign takes place at the beginning of summer, after the end of the course of lectures and seminars, at sites of particular environmental value of the national territory. The participants are all the third year students and numerous Natural Sciences degree course professors with expertise in the geological, botanical, zoological and ecological fields. The integration of these competences allows precise analysis, at the ecosystem and landscape scale, of the biodiversity of the visited environments in relation to the dynamics of the main physical and anthropic determinants.
Bisol P.M., F. Pranovi 1998. Appunti sulla Biodiversita. Cleup Ed. Padova, 164 pp.
Ferrari C. 2001. Biodiversita dall'analisi alla gestione. Zanichelli, Bologna, 136 pp.
Margiocco C., M. Mariotti (Eds) 2001. Basi di dati e cartografia della biodiversita. Progetto INTERREG II C MEDOC, 213 pp. Bologna G. 2005. Manuale della sostenibilita. Idee, concetti, nuove discipine capaci di futuro. Ed. Ambiente WWF, 331 pp Ruffo S., F. Stoch (Eds) 2005. . Checklist e distribuzione della fauna italiana. Memorie del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Verona, Sezione Scienze della Vita 16, 307 pp
Various Natural Sciences degree course professors alternate in the classroom lectures and in the seminars into which the unit is divided. Some seminars, on cases of study of particular interest or on specialist topics of a methodological nature, are held by professors of other degree courses or by experts from outside the University with important expertise in topics of strong relevance to the course content. Assessment consists of a written test that includes a concise treatment of the main subjects of study of the course and a subsequent guided discussion with each candidate on the content of the test.
The nature campaign is planned and carried out as an experience with a strong interdisciplinary connotation. During the week, in addition to surveys on sites of naturalistic interest, exercises on various themes are carried out at specialist level: geomorphological aspects, recognition of fauna, flora and vegetation, analysis of structure and functions of ecosystems, etc. Assessment is conducted on the basis of a text ('nature campaign paper') that each student is required to present within two to three months after the end of the campaign. The text includes a part dedicated to a summary of the main events of the week and a part that contains an in-depth study of a topic of particular scientific importance.