Kursussøgning, efter- og videreuddannelse – Københavns Universitet

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Kursussøgning, efter- og videreuddannelse

Applied Ecosystem Ecology

Practical information
Study year 2016/2017
Block 3
Programme level Full Degree Master
Course responsible
  • Klaus Steenberg Larsen (3-6e766f436c6a71316e7831676e)
  • Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management
Course number: NIGK16000U

Course content

The central idea of the course is to study the mechanisms and processes that control ecosystem functioning via interactions between organisms, the environment and human activities. Using a system ecology approach we will analyze systems from the global scale through the ecosystem to the scale of the soil microenvironment in order to understand the background of fundamental services that ecosystems provide. We will analyze the influence and impact of human activities including different land uses, pollution and climate change, as well as potential climate change mitigation strategies including bioenergy production.  Through theoretical exercises students will learn how to apply the knowledge obtained during the course, e.g. to evaluate various environmental footprints of human activities and perform sustainability assessments of climate change mitigation strategies. The course will end with a course “conference” where student will present and discuss the concepts of planetary boundaries and the sustainable use of global resources. The core elements of the course are:

  • The functioning of the Globe and the three spheres (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere)

  • Characteristics and differences of the global cycles of major elements (C, N, P and S) and their interactions

  • The triangle of organisms, processes and the environment

  • Succession, diversity and ecosystem functioning and how this affects stability, resistance and resilience of ecosystems

  • Evaluation of impacts of human activitiesthrough qualitative and quantitative assessment of the flow of energy and matter through ecosystems

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is to give a solid understanding of ecosystem ecology focusing on the role of living organisms for the flow of matter and energy at various scales and the interactions with human activities and climate change. After completing the course students should be able to:


  • Describe the overall global functioning of the three spheres (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere), including the global climate system and global cycling cycling of elements
  • Discuss the role of organisms, trophic levels, and diversity for the flow of matter and energy and overall ecosystem functioning
  • Describe the interactions between land use, species composition, and ecosystem functioning
  • Explain how land-use affects the exchange of biogenic greenhouse gases between atmosphere and biosphere
  • Describe the importance of scale for ecosystem functioning from soil aggregate to global scale



  • Work qualitatively and quantitatively with ecosystem functioning, environmental impacts, and nature quality
  • Analyze the diversity of the main groups of organisms and its relation to functioning of the environment
  • Analyze how different biomes have different conditions and therefore different threats to their optimal functioning



  • Formulate aims and guiding principles for the use and protection of ecosystems, their functioning and biotic composition
  • Evaluate the effect of human activities on the environments and their functions to provide services to the surroundings and to the human society
  • Analyze, put into perspective, and criticize original research papers and reports
  • Perform effective written and oral presentations of acquired knowledge and ideas

Recommended prerequisites

An introductory course in systems ecology and microbiology is an advantage.

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MSc Programme in Nature Management
MSc Programme in Environmental Science


Study Board of Geosciences and Management

Course type

Single subject courses (day)


Klaus Steenberg Larsen, Inger Kappel Schmidt, Søren Christensen, Helge Ro-Poulsen, Bent Vismann, Dean Jacobsen


1 block


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Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be organized in topical modules, each subdivided into lectures, discussion classes, lab/field demonstrations and theoretical exercises. Discussion classes include student presentations with student opponent groups and will prepare students for the final course conference.


50 students (1 class of 50).




Selected scientific papers and book chapters (see Absalon).


Category Hours
Preparation 52
Lectures 40
Colloquia 30
Project work 40
Theory exercises 30
Field Work 10
Exam 4
English 206


Type of assessment

Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation


All aids allowed

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide you a computer. Private computer, tablet or mobile phone CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.

Marking scale

7-point grading scale

Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome.

Censorship form

No external censorship
Several internal examiners


Oral examination (20 minutes) with prepation time (20 minutes) and all aids.

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