Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will have conceptual and practical knowledge of the main marine ecosystems, natural and anthropogenic (such as those created by artificial infrastrutures) and their associated communities (algal canopies, saltmarshes, seagrass beds, biogenic reef and soft-bottom fauna), and the basic methodologies for mapping their biotic and abiotic features. The student will have specialist knowledge on the ecology and functioning of these systems, and how these processes result in important ecosystem services to humans. In particular, the student will be able to: i) describe the status and functioning of the various coastal habitats; ii) describe the profound changes induced by man over the centuries, iii) simulate ecological research, through the acquisition of ecological data in the marine communities

Course contents

The lectures will cover a variety of coastal ecosystems. For each ecosystem we will analyse:

  • Main environmental characteristics
  • Main communities, their structure and distribution
  • Main ecological processes and functioning, with emphasis on experimental work focusing on some particularly well studied processes
  • Human-induced changes, threats and conservation needs

The course is structured as follows:

1) Introduction

2) Intertidal rocky bottoms - experiments on the role of competition and predator-prey interactions

3) Subtidal rocky bottoms and canopy forming macroalgae & kelp forests - experiments on the role of disturbance, trophic cascades, and the effects of sedimentation

4) Estuarine environments, saltmarshes - experiments on the role of positive interactions and of the effects of excessive nutrient loads

5) Seagrasses

6) Oyster reefs and other biogenic reefs

7) Soft-bottoms

8) Artificial man-made habitats – focus on the concept of novel ecosystems and the design of sustainable marine infrastructures and nature based solutions

We will elaborate on some concepts through discussion groups of relevant papers.

We will also carry out two field excursions (Parco Delta del Po and Ravenna Harbour)


Bertness et al (Editors) 2013 Marine Community Ecology and Conservation. Sinauer Associates Inc.

Airoldi & Beck 2007 – Loss, status and trends for coastal marine habitats of Europe. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev

Other recommended text (especially for those who do not have a strong background in marine biology): Kaiser et al (eds) Marine Ecology: Processes, systems and impacts. Oxford University Press

Additional material will be illustrated and provided during the teaching, toghether with copies of the power point presentations

Teaching methods

Frontal teaching

Discussion groups

Field excursions

Assessment methods

There will be 1 written exam session (which will take place at the end of the course tentatively in March and will include about 20 questions both closed and open - the questions will cover all the topics of the course) and 5 oral exams. 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). Each student can not enroll in more than one exam call at a time per each examination session. Students who have not passed an exam test will be eligible to take the exam only to the second round later in the next examination session (then jumping one call).

Teaching tools

The teaching material will be made available on the e-learning platform of UNIBO. The password to access the teaching material will be given during the first teaching lesson

Office hours

See the website of Laura Airoldi