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 2021/2022

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 2 CFU held by Marina Antonia Colangelo (Module 1) and 4 CFU held by Federica Costantini (Module 2). 

The two teachers will present the course together during the first day in which they will discuss the cultural roots of ecology, the purpose of ecology, levels of ecological organization, time and space scales, ecology as a science, and the methods to study ecology. 

Module 1, Ecology of the populations is held by Marina Antonia Colangelo and will cover the following topics: Population ecology: property of populations; population growth, study of demography, exponential and logistic models of growth, carrying capacity and intraspecific competition. Biotic interactions: competition, predation, facilitation and other positive interactions, direct and indirect interactions.

Module 2:

Ecology of communities and ecosystems is held by Federica Costantini and will cover the following topics: life cycle models; 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).



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

Ecologia 2020 - Antonio Pusceddu, Gianluca Sarà, Pierluigi Viaroli – UTET Università

Other relevant bibliography will be provided during the lessons together with a copy of the power point presentations.

For module 2 Costantini 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 lessons through the aid of slides in Powerpoint. All activities will take place in the manner permitted by the health situation at the time of the course.

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:

The exam will be in the form of written tests which will include both closed and open questions for each of the two modules. The overall assessment of the task will also be based on the conceptual difficulty of the individual questions and the "scientific" language used. The final vote will be given by the weighted average of the votes reported in each module.

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

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 Marina Antonia Colangelo