65954 - Ecology

Course Unit Page


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

Clean water and sanitation Climate Action Oceans Life on land

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student has the basic knowledge to understand the main scientific paradigms of ecology. In particular, it is able to: - interpret the adaptive relations between plant and animal organisms and the environment and how it generates and maintains the biodiversity of the natural world; - recognize the main characteristics and dynamics of growth of the different species populations; - understand the ecological function of the fundamental interactions between populations of species, such as competition and predation, and how these are integrated into the dynamics of the communities of the living; - understand the efficiency of elementary ecosystem processes, such as energy flows, interactions between environmental compartments and biogeochemical cycles.

Course contents

The course of Ecology of 6 CFU is divided into two modules of 3 CFU each, held by Marina Antonia Colangelo and Laura Airoldi.

Module 1, Ecology of the populations is held by Federica Costantini and will cover the following topics: Introduction: the cultural roots of ecology, purpose of ecology, levels of ecological organization, ecology as science, methods to study ecology; Population ecology: life cycle models; property of populations; population growth, study of demography, exponential and logistic models of growth, carrying capacity and intraspecific competition; life cycle models. Biotic interactions: competition, predation, facilitation and other positive interactions, direct and indirect interactions.

Module 2: Ecology of communities and ecosystems is held by Laura Airoldi and will cover the following topics: concept of ecosystem; interactions between the physical environment (atmosphere, water, soil) and the biological community (concept of community, community structure, ecological succession and role of disturbing factors, diversity in particular in communities and factors that influence it); energy of ecosystems (energy sources, primary and secondary production, energy flows and food webs); the cyclization of matter (decomposition processes, biogeochemical cycles); ecosystem functioning (ecosystem properties and functions, stability and resilience, relations between biodiversity and functioning); conservation of ecosystems (ecosystem services and natural capital, human impacts and global changes, hints of environmental management).


REFERENCE TEXT: Elementi di Ecologia - 2017 - TM Smith, RL Smith. Pearson Education, Edizione economica

For module 2 Airoldi the following papers are also used:

1) Costanza, R.; d'Arge, R.; de Groot, R.; Farber, S.; Grasso, M.; Hannon, B.; Limburg, K.; Naeem, S.; O'Neill, R.V.; Paruelo, J.; Raksin, R.G.; Sutton, P. & van den Belt, M. (1997). The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, Vol.387, No.6630, pp. 253-260

2) Michel Loreau 2009. Linking biodiversity and ecosystems: towards a unifying ecological theory. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 2010 365, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0155

3) Marten Scheffer, and Stephen R. Carpenter 2003. Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: linking theory to observation. TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution Vol.18

Teaching methods

Frontal lectures.

Assessment methods

The end-of-course exam aims to evaluate the achievement of course objectives, such as knowledge of the relationships between organisms and the environment; the dynamics and growth of populations and their interactions; structure and function of the communities, the fundamental processes and functions of ecosystems such as energy flows and recycling of matter and biogeochemical cycles. The end-of-course exam is done simultaneously for the 2 modules. The questions will cover all the topics covered in the two modules and will be evaluated by each teacher of the relative module according to the following methods:

1) for module 1 Costantini, during the course, 1 partial written test is planned. All the other evaluations will be achieved by written tests, which will include both closed and open questions. The overall assessment of the task will also be based on the conceptual difficulty of the individual questions

2) for module 2 Airoldi, the evaluation is achieved either by a written test (the approach used during the winter exam session or whenever > 10 students are registered to an exam) or by an oral exam (the approach used during the summer and autumn session or whenever there are <10 students registered). The exam will include about 15 questions, which will include both closed and open questions. The overall assessment of the task will also be based on the conceptual difficulty of the individual questions

The final vote will be given by the average of the votes reported in each module.

The dates of the exam will be published on the Almaesami website. Students can only book for the exams using the methods provided by the Alma Esami online system (https://almaesami.unibo.it/almaesami/welcome.htm).

The grade assigned to the exam can be refused up to a maximum of two times.

Teaching tools

The teaching material will be available in the virtual space Teachings OnLine (https://iol.unibo.it).

Office hours

See the website of Federica Costantini

See the website of Laura Airoldi