Plants in Populations and Communities

Course content

Plant ecology is the scientific study of biotic and abiotic interactions that determine the fitness, abundance and distribution of plants. This course focuses on the ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes that drive these interactions at population and community levels. A major focus of the course is to use ecological theory to understand basic and applied questions in plant ecology with relevance to global sustainability objectives.

 

The solutions to many global environmental and agricultural challenges require an understanding of plant ecology. The demand for nutritious, sustainably produced, plant-based food is increasing, requiring knowledge of plant performance and interactions in populations and communities. Weeds, insect pests and diseases cause substantial yield losses and therefore it is important to understand plant-plant and plant-pest interactions to design sustainable agricultural systems. Plant populations and communities in natural and semi-natural ecosystems are under threat from agricultural intensification, land use, climate and environmental change, but what determines their long-term probability of survival and how can we better manage and maintain plant populations and communities? How does reduced biodiversity affect processes in the natural and human-dominated landscape and how can we include plant diversity in landscape and agri-environmental planning, which may ultimately influence our well-being as humans?

 

The core of the course aims to teach basic principles in plant population and community ecology that will help to address these challenges:

 

- Plant population ecology: demography, population dynamics, dispersal

- Biotic interactions: plant-plant, plant-microbe and plant-herbivore interactions and their impacts on plant populations, communities and co-evolution.

- Evolutionary ecology: Life history, local adaptation, population and ecological genetics.

- Plant community ecology: community structure, succession, species diversity.

 

We also explore the importance of basic plant ecology for addressing current global agri-environmental and sustainability challenges (zero hunger, life on land, responsible consumption and production, climate action) through lectures and seminars, student- and teacher-led classroom discussion, literature criticism and project work. Case studies include:

 

- Plant invasions, pest management, plant ecology and evolution in human-influenced environments, plant diversity, big data and citizen science for plant ecology.

 

The course relies on active participation of the students in discussions, experiments, exercises, peer feedback and lectures. 

Education

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme i Environmental Science

Learning outcome

Students in the course will learn about ecological processes and interactions that affect survival and reproduction of plant populations, their abundance and distribution, and how these can be investigated scientifically. They will become familiar with major concepts, questions and controversies in modern plant ecology, and be able to discuss these critically. Students will learn to apply this knowledge to solve current societal challenges. 

Knowledge 

- Scientific knowledge about processes and interactions that determine the abundance and distribution of plants in populations and communities

- Appreciate the interplay of ecological and evolutionary factors in determining dynamic patterns of plant distribution and abundance

- Understand the role of abiotic (environmental) factors and biotic interactions such as competition, herbivory, parasitism and symbiosis in shaping plant population and community dynamics

- Appreciate interactions between plant ecological patterns and human disturbance in natural and agri-environmental systems.

Skills 

- Use plant ecological theory to develop and test hypotheses about impacts of land use and environmental change on the diversity and function of plant populations and communities.

- Apply plant ecological principles to applied problems in nature and landscape management and plant production

 

Competences 

- Understand and criticize research, concepts and theories in major areas of plant ecology and its applications 

- Understand and use models and hypotheses to explain ecological patterns and processes, and evaluate these critically 

- Discuss scientific aspect of applied problems concerning plant populations and communities 

One to two lectures per day, including discussions. 

Quantitative and theoretical exercises

Reading articles and look critical at the literature, this part will likewise be with discussions.

Two all-day excursions, including field data collection.
Analysis and review of methods for data collection.

An indoor plant experiment in groups, including data analysis, interpretation, presentation and discussion.

Quizzes. Four one-hour written examinations in specified parts of the curriculum.

Student project and report: Each student decides on a current research question in plant ecology. This project includes literature searching, criticital reading, synthesis and reference management. The student develops a short report, which is then read by fellow students and subjected to peer-feedback in Absalon. Students present to peers in class (with peer feedback) and then write an assessed project report.

In all these activities, our main teaching form is based on dialogue, discussions, and a critical but supporting approach to complex scientific and applied ecological challenges.

Gurevitch J, Scheiner SM and Fox GA:  The Ecology of Plants. Third Edition. Sinauer Associates.
Scientific articles

Introductory courses in ecology and botany

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Oral
Individual
Collective
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Individual teacher feedback to students during project development, experiments, and for final report. 

Teacher and peer feedback to project report, experimental results and presentation.

Collective oral feedback to the results of the four smaller exams during course.

Individual feedback if requested. 

ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Continuous assessment
Type of assessment details
Continuous assessment, including 1) four smaller written exams during the course (1hour each) (60%); 2) an individual written report on a chosen subject (40%)
Aid
Only certain aids allowed

No materials at 1) written exams
All materials allowed for 2) individual written report

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assessment

Look at the learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Class Instruction
  • 14
  • Preparation
  • 96
  • Theory exercises
  • 8
  • Excursions
  • 16
  • Project work
  • 32
  • Guidance
  • 2
  • Exam
  • 6
  • English
  • 206

Kursusinformation

Language
English
Course number
NPLK21001U
ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Duration

1 block

Placement
Block 1
Schedulegroup
C
Capacity
30
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Studyboard
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Paul Neve   (6-7769756c7d6c4777736c7535727c356b72)
Saved on the 20-04-2022

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