701-0301-00L  Applied Systems Ecology

SemesterAutumn Semester 2017
LecturersA. Gessler
Periodicityyearly course
Language of instructionGerman


AbstractThis course provides the ecological systems` knowledge needed to question applied solutions to current environmental issues. Our central aim is to balance participants' respect for complexity with a sense of possibility by providing examples from the vast solution space offered by ecological systems, such as e.g. green infrastructure to manage water.
ObjectiveAt the end of the course...
...you know how to structure your inquiry and how to proceed the analysis when faced with a complex environmental issue. You can formulate the relevant questions, find answers (supported by discussions, input from the lecturers and the literature), and you are able to present your conclusions clearly and cautiously.
...you understand the complexity of interactions and structures in ecosystems. You know how ecosystem processes, functions and services interact and feed back across multiple spatio-temporal scales (in general, plus in depth case examples).
...you understand that biodiversity and the interaction between organisms are an integral part of ecosystems. You are aware that the link between biodiversity and process/function/service is rarely fully understood. You know how to honestly deal with this lack of understanding and can nevertheless find, critically analyse and communicate solutions.
...you understand the importance of ecosystem services for society.
...you have an overview of the methods of ecosystem research and have a deeper insight into some of them, e.g. ecosystem observation, manipulation and modelling.
...you have reflected on ecology as a young discipline at the heart of significant applied questions.
ContentThis course provides the ecological systems' knowledge needed to question applied sustainability solutions. We will critically assess the complexity of current environmental issues, illustrating basic ecological concepts and principles. Our central aim is to balance participants' respect for complexity with a sense of possibility by providing examples from the vast solution space offered by ecological systems, such as e.g. green infrastructure to manage water.

The course is structured around four larger topical areas: (1) Integrated Water Management -- Green infrastructure (land management options) as an alternative to engineered solutions (e.g. large reservoirs) in flood and drought management; (2) Fire dynamics, the water cycle and biodiversity -- The surprising dynamics of species life cycles and populations in arid landscapes; (3) Rewilding, e.g. re-introducing apex predators (e.g. wolves), or large ungulates (e.g. bisons) in protected areas -- A nature conservation trend with counterintuitive effects; (4) Coupling of aquatic and terrestrial systems: carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus transfers of global importance on landscape scale.
Lecture notesCase descriptions, commented glossary and a list of literature and further resources per case.
LiteratureIt is not essential to borrow/buy the following books. We will continuously provide excerpts and other literature during the course.

Agren GI and Andersson FO (2012) Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology, Cambridge University Press.

Chapin et al. (2011), Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology, Springer.

Schulze et al. (2005) Plant Ecology; Springer.
Prerequisites / NoticeThe course combines elements of a classic lecture, group discussions and problem based learning. It is helpful, but not essential to be familiar with the "seven stages" method (see e.g. course 701-0352-00L "Analysis and Assessment of Environmental Sustainability" by Christian Pohl et al.).