Contribution of the course to the overall degree programme goals
Global changes are recognize as the most pervasive driver at the planetary scale and in order to analyze their effects and cope with them, the adoption of a biosphere perspective is required, moving from the local to the global and from individuals to populations, communities and biomes scale. The course deals with the analysis of possible effects of global changes on the living component of the planet, taking into the account that organisms are strictly interconnected each other. This network of relationships, indeed, shapes biological communities and ecosystems, directly affecting their functioning and ecosystem services delivered to our society. The course will offer the scientific background and some simplified analytical tools to explore these issues, with the goal to identify possible strategies for reducing the high unsustainability, that we are experiencing nowadays.
Expected learning outcomes
Students are expected to develop skills to better understand the strong dependence of our society from the so-called natural capital and the ecological processes that support a lot of different essential services. All this will be useful for supporting the shift from the anthropic to the ecological perspective.
No specific prerequisite
Section 1. The environmental question: anthropic vs ecological perspective. Is the human responsibility toward the natural world a realistic view or is it just a badly asked question? Are we just one of the million species which lived on the Earth, or are a peculiar species? Why the species are ecologically limited and what are these limits? The planet is in crisis—we need to think clearly and calmly about this problem, and craft solutions to it that will be as just as possible to as many people as possible. How can we do this?
Section 2. The physical environment features and variations through space and time. What is the habitat? Matter flows in the environment; the closure of cycles, examples of biogeochemical and water cycles.
Section 3. Hierarchical levels: from individual to biosphere. Definition of biological populations and their variations in space and time. Biodiversity and evolutive dynamics. Assemblage rules in natural communities and temporal dynamics.
Section 4. The ecosystem functioning. Emergent properties in ecology. Energy flows and trophic relationships within the ecological systems. Resilience and resistance in the ecosystems, regime shifts and multiple ecological states. Elements of landscape ecology.
Section 5. The disturbance ecology and recovery capabilities. What are the ecological bases of sustainability? Ecosystems as perfect examples of sustainable functioning. And what about our species? Why we are not able to perceive ourselves as a species among the others? What are the keys for facing with the coming changes in our environment?
Scientific papers on specific issues will be used
The final exam consists in the discussion of 3 issues developed during the course, including an issue at the choice of the student, aimed to verify the student capability to apply the studied concepts to specific case studies
Frontal teaching, multimedia resources and group discussions on specific topics
Type of exam
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals
This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Natural capital and environmental quality" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development
Last update of the programme: 28/06/2022
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