PEN-21803 Ecology of Communities, Ecosystems and Landscapes: Theory


Studiepunten 3.00

Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. J van Ruijven
Lecturer(s)dr. P Vergeer
dr. J van Ruijven
dr. ir. MMPD Heijmans
Examiner(s)dr. P Vergeer
dr. J van Ruijven

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

PEN-10503 Ecology I

PEN-20503 Ecology II

Continuation courses:

PEN-22303 Ecology of Communities, Ecosystems and Landscapes: Excursions

PEN-30306 Plant Vegetation and Systems Ecology


Note: This course can not be combined in an individual programme with CSA-20806 Populations Systems Ecology and/or SGL-23312 Landscape Geography except for BBN students.

Causes and consequences of changes in biodiversity is the main focus of the course. The first lecture and practical deal with concepts, patterns and measurements of biodiversity and the ecological implications of biodiversity loss. The remainder of the course features the most important ecological concepts and processes related to biodiversity at the level of the community, ecosystem and landscape. In community ecology, the focus lies on biotic interactions (competition, trophic interactions, bottom-up and top-down control and the stability of food webs). Ecosystem ecology mainly deals with interactions between organisms and the abiotic environment. Here, we focus on nutrient cycling, succession, feedbacks between vegetations and climate change and the global carbon cycle. At the landscape level, the focus lies on the structure and dynamics of natural and cultural landscapes, fragmentation, spatial relationships between different elements within the landscape and meta'-population theory. The last lecture will feature the Netherlands as an illustration of the threats biodiversity is facing, the underlying ecological processes at different spatial scales and national policy related to the conservation efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain the current threats to biodiversity and its implications for ecosystem functioning using general ecological theory;
- illustrate species adaptations to environmental conditions and their feedbacks to ecological processes at the level of communities, ecosystems and landscapes;
- recognize the relationships between abiotic and biotic processes at different spatial scales;
- apply simple mathematics on general ecological principles such as species-area relationships, competition, meta-population theory and nutrient cycling;
- describe and explain the ecological background of nature management measures and policy.


- lectures
- tutorials


Written exam


Selected chapters from: Levin (ed.) 2009 Princeton guide to ecology. Available online from the library. 

Syllabus containing materials for the tutorials will be available at the WUR-shop one to two weeks before the start of the course and on Brightspace.

Verplicht voor: BBNForest and Nature ConservationBSc5AF
BESEnvironmental SciencesBScB: Spec. B - Environmental Quality and Systems Analysis5AF
Keuze voor: WUFNCBSc Minor Forest and Nature Conservation5AF