59020 - Ecology and Nature Conservation

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Moduli: Federica Costantini (Modulo 1) Michele Casini (Modulo 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Natural Sciences (cod. 5823)

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, students are able to understand the possible interactions between the environment and living organisms, and how these shape the biological communities and their dynamics. They are also aware of the complexity of the factors to be considered for a sustainable management of human interventions. Students will gain an overall understanding of state of the environment, its resources and its biodiversity, and the problems resulting from human impacts. In addition, they acquire notions regarding the conservation of populations, species and ecosystems at risk.

Course contents

1) Introduction: the cultural roots of ecology, the aims of ecology, the levels of ecological organization, temporal and spatial scales, ecology as a science, ecological methods and tools

2) The ecosystem: concept of ecosystem, flows of energy in the ecosystems, food webs, the abiotic environment and the climate, biogeochemical cycles, the aquatic, terrestrial and transition environments

3) Interactions between organisms and their environment: adaptations of organisms to the environment, natural selection, ecological niche and energy acquisition

4) The populations: life histories, growth models, life cycles, carrying capacity, the concept of metapopulation, examples of methods of sampling and estimations

5) Biotic interactions: competition, predation, parasitism, facilitation and other positive interactions, direct and indirect interactions

6) Communities and biodiversity: community structure, ecological successions, distribution, biodiversity and biodiversity indices, factors affecting biodiversity

7) Dynamics of ecosystems: food chains and food webs, ecosystem functioning, trophic cascades, disturbances and resilience, regime shifts, alternative stable states

8) Threats to biological diversity: habitat degradation and loss, pollution, eutrophication, overexploitation of natural resources, invasive species, climate changes

9) Introduction to conservation biology: Why conservation? The natural capital, ecosystem goods and services

10) Conservation of populations: vulnerability and conservation status of species and populations, minumum viable population, reintroduction of populations, current legislations, examples of management of anthropogenic exploitation, success conservation and management stories

11) Conservation of ecosystems: vulnerability and conservation status of ecosystems, biodiversity hotspots, protected areas, restoration of the ecosystems and their functioning, spatial planning and sustainable development, current legislations, success conservation stories


Ecologia – 2020 – A Pusceddu, G Sarà, P Viaroli, UTET

Other text for potential further deepening:

- Elements of Ecology - 2017 - TM Smith, RL Smith. Pearson Education, 9th edition.

- Elements of Ecology - 2023 - TM Smith, RL Smith. Pearson Education Italy, 10th edition. With more Italian case studies.

Other bibliographical recommendations will be provided by the teachers during the classes.

Power-point presentations and other teaching material will be provided during the classes.

Teaching methods

The course is comprised of 8 CFU: 5 CFU will be covered by Prof. Michele Casini, 3 CFU by Prof. Federica Costantini. Prof. Costantini will mainly cover the topics 1-3 (module 1), while Prof. Casini the topics 4-9 (module 2). The topics 10 and 11 will be covered by both teachers.

The course will be run prevailingly in the form of frontal teaching, with the potential support of discussion groups of selected scientific papers of interest and exercises in the class.

A one-day field excursion will be performed at mid course. The attendance at this activity requires the previous participation for all students in the Modules 1, 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety Training for Study and Research Areas, [https://corsi.unibo.it/laurea/ScienzeNaturali/formazione-obbligatoria-su-sicurezza-e-salute.

Assessment methods

The exam will assess knowledge about the structure and functioning of natural systems (populations, communities, ecosystems), their conservation and management of anthropogenic pressures. The final evaluation is expressed in 30ies.

There will be 1 written exam session (which will take place at the end of the course tentatively in January and will include questions both closed and open) and 3 oral exams. The exams will cover all the topics of the course. The final mark will result from the weighted mean, based on the CFU, of the evaluations obtained in the 2 modules.

The written exam will be delivered in Italian, while foreign students will be able to take the oral exam in English if preferred.

The dates of the exams will be posted on the site Almaesami. Students can book for the examination exclusively using the procedures provided by the online system Alma Exams (https://almaesami.unibo.it/almaesami/welcome.htm ) respecting the given deadlines.

Student's score for the written exam will be registered on the date indicated in Almaesami. In that occasion, it will be possible to see the exam and ask explanations.

Teaching tools

Black- or whiteboard, projector, power-point presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Michele Casini

See the website of Federica Costantini


Climate Action Oceans Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.