NR730 - Terrestrial Ecosystems




The course is presented in four sections.  The first introduces the basics of ecosystem studies, addressing fundamental principles and the challenges inherent in measuring the integrated function of large units of the landscape, and running experiments at this scale.  In the second section we drop down a level to examine the major processes (photosynthesis, decomposition, weathering) that control ecosystem response to environmental conditions.  In the third section we re-emerge at the ecosystem level to discuss how these processes interact at the whole-ecosystem level in four very different environments, and in section 4, how ecosystems respond to environmental stress and human disturbance.


Classes will be a combination of presentation and discussion and will use the assigned text as the primary resource.  Please, BE SURE TO READ THE CHAPTERS BEFORE CLASS EACH WEEK.  Class will have little value for you if you don’t!  I will not present again in class all the content that is in the book.  Bring your book to class to help with questions and discussions.


For the first two sections of the course, there will also be a set of excel spreadsheet exercises assigned that correspond to different chapters.  The purpose of these exercises is to increase your understanding of, and familiarity with, interactions in ecosystems.  Feedbacks and other complex interactions among basic processes are difficult to visualize or convey verbally, or even graphically.  These exercises are designed to help you "think like an ecosystem" (to paraphrase Aldo Leopold).  The assignments involve either ecosystem-level calculations or interactive modeling exercises, each of which progresses from simple and straightforward questions about the topic to ones that require you to integrate and apply what you have learned.  For sections 3 and 4, we will combine exercises with topical readings and discussions of current issues.


TEXT: Terrestrial Ecosystems - Aber and Melillo 2nd edition

            Corrections to the text and a set of definitions will be posted on Blackboard