28309 - Applied Marine Botany

Course Unit Page


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

Climate Action Oceans

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

After attending the course the student will have acquired knowledge on the role of the photosynthetic organisms in organic matter production, in the relationships between photosynthesis and primary production and on the different environmental abiotic factors as well as biotic interactions, climate changes and pollution effects influencing such production. The student will have acquired expertise in methods of study of phytoplankton which are applied in cultures or in the field (biomass, growth rate, photosynthetic eficciency)  and on methods used in oceanography strictly related to phytoplankton physiology (chlorophyll analysis and fluorescence, global primary production evaluation, remote sensing). The student will also know the organic matter flux dynamics and the influence of phytoplankton ecophysiology on biogeochemical cycles and on common water column measurements.

Course contents

Marine plants and their environment. Characteristics of the algae: cells, reproduction and evolution. Anatomy, life cycle and ecology of main marine photosynthetic taxa. Importance and use of phytoplankton in oceanographic studies and methods of measurements of: biomass, growth rate, primary production, respiration and excretion. Phytoplankton growth dynamics and satellite observations. Structure, organization and role of photosynthetic and fotoprotective pigments. Photosynthesis irradiance relationships, photoinhibition and fotoacclimation events. Macronutrient absorption and utilization, limitant nutrients, Redfield ratio, influence of nutrients on species competition. Carbon concentrating mechanisms and organication. Effect of climate changes (CO2 and temperature increase, acidfication) on phytoplankton growth and photosynthesis.


Power point files will be available in the teaching material, they will be integrated with lecture notes.

Teaching methods

The course is composed of 2 parts:

  • 4 CFU of frontal lectures and 1 CFU of practical teaching held from Prof. Pistocchi
  • 1 CFU of frontal lectures and 1 CFU of practical teaching held by Prof.ssa Guerrini

1 practical CFU will deal with phytoplankton sampling in seawater, biomass measurement and qualitative and quantitative cell evaluation, the other CFU consists in a teaching Module called "Phytoplankton study methods" based on phytoplankton cultures performed under different light and nutrient conditions with the aim of evaluating cell photoacclimation.

The practical parts are performed in the teaching lab or in the research lab due to the presence of specific instruments and will end with data elaboration in the informatic room.  

Students will take part to the activities in groups.

Assessment methods

The final examination aims to the following objectives evaluation:

  • Knowledge of the characteristics of the marine plant taxa
  • Knowledge of the ecophysiological aspects of phytoplankton and the use of cell parameters for the study of the water column

The exam is oral, the teacher will ask 3 questions comprising the evaluation of a graph obtained during the practical or shown during lectures 

Teaching tools

Power point files and scientific papers

Laboratory application of physiological aspects of the phytoplankton

Office hours

See the website of Rossella Pistocchi

See the website of Franca Guerrini