Freshwater Ecology

Course content

The teaching varies between general ecological understanding and new research and discoveries; applied aspects of the management of freshwaters, excursions and practical field work, theoretical exercises and different models.

Important themes are:

  • The diversity of lakes and running waters in Denmark and globally.
  • The physico-chemical environment, sources of nutrients and their transport and turn over; furthermore, the living conditions in water.
  • The origin and development of lakes and rivers in a geological time frame, eutrophication and remediation in recent time.
  • The biology of plants and animals in lakes and running waters: dispersal, numbers, growth regulation and adaptations.
  • Biological interactions in lakes among phytoplankton, macrophytes, bacteria, zooplankton, benthic animals, fish and birds. Biomanipulation and chemical methods in remediation.
  • Biological interactions in running waters among periphyton, macrophytes, benthic animals and fish.
  • The uniqe environment and dynamics in running water.
  • The quality of running waters and how to judge from their biology.
  • Global change and biodiversity in lakes and running waters.

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject
MSc Programme in Environmental Science


Learning outcome

To understand variations in the environment, biological adaptations, interactions and turnover of matter in different types of lakes and running water; both nationally and global. It is also the purpose to understand the management of the freshwaters in a context of water supply and land use.

General goals:
The student is expected to achieve a general understanding of the most important freshwater organisms, their relation to the physical and chemical environment, and biological interaction among different groups of organisms. Such knowledge shall enable the student to explain the ecology of freshwaters in a coherent fashion and to use the knowledge operationally. Finally, the student shall understand the environmental quality of freshwaters and understand the factors controlling quality, and thus be able to discuss current issues relating to freshwaters and to do so with scientific arguments.

Specific goals:
After the course the student can:


  • describe the biology of the most important groups in freshwater (phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes, macro invertebrates and fish)
  • identify the most important organisms with respect to specific processes, and provide names for the most important organisms in selected freshwater ecosystems
  • explain how the physico-chemical environment (e.g. stratification, light attenuation and inorganic pool of carbon) regulate and affects the most important group of organisms


  • define the spatial zones of lakes and running waters (e.g. epilimnion, littoralzone, spring, river)
  • describe the important ecological differences and similarities among different types of freshwater systems
  • describe and explain time and space variations for the composition, diversity and production in natural communities
  • provide examples of biological interactions among organisms in freshwater (competition, herbivory and predation)
  • predict and calculate the consequences for specific groups of organisms and turn over of matters with respect to changes in abiotic and biotic relations
  • explain adaptation with respect to ”life” in different freshwater habitats
  • explain input, output and turn over nutrients and organic matter in different freshwaters and their hydrological catchments


  • evaluate the effects of human impact (e.g. eutrophication, habitat degradation) for biological communities and the general ecology of freshwaters
  • evaluate, analyse and calculate using primary data and to use the correct units
  • use important scientific terms correctly
  • read, evaluate and present scientific literature

The teaching is organised in themes covering both theoretical and applied aspects of freshwater ecology. The learning outcome is covered by lectures, excursions, demonstrations and theoretical exercises.

See Absalon.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
It is recommended that the student has passed the courses "Almen Økologi" and "Feltbiologi I, II og III, part III.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Class Instruction
  • 23
  • Preparation
  • 131
  • Excursions
  • 16
  • Exam
  • 4
  • English
  • 206