Current Trends in Ecology & Evolution


Course Objective

Students will be able to:
- Underpin the importance of ecological interactions (trophic and non-
trophic) between soil organisms-plants-aboveground fauna (and vice
- Critically evaluate and investigate the relevant interactions between
soil-soil organisms, soil-vegetation, soil organisms-vegetation,
vegetation-herbivores (and vice versa)
- Critically evaluate and investigate the relevant functional traits
that underlie ecological interactions between the soil-subsystem (brown
web) and plant-subsystem (green web)
- In the field: apply different techniques to survey the soil-subsystem
and plant-subsystem, and to sample soil and soil organisms
- In the laboratory: carry out ecological and biochemical analyses
relevant to brown-green web interactions, with emphasis on organismal
- Write, adapt and defend a project proposal.

Course Content

A hot theoretical topic in Ecology concerns the interdependency of the
brown web (belowground) and green web (aboveground) compartments. This
comprises key conceptual issues relating to interactions between brown
and green communities, the importance of functional traits to understand
these interactions within and between these communities, and the
processes carried out by each component. These concepts can be applied
to current critical questions, such as the regulation and function of
biodiversity, vegetation development, and consequences of human-induced
global change,
e.g. biological invasions, extinctions, nitrogen deposition, land use
change and climate change.
In this course we will focus theoretically on the following subjects:
- The brown and green food web: biotic interactions and regulators
- Plant species and plant trait control of brown web interactions and
- Belowground consequences of green food web interactions
- Completing the circle: how brown web effects are manifested
- The regulation and function of biological diversity, with a focus on
functional traits of plants, animals and microbes
- Global change phenomena in an aboveground-belowground context
These subjects are discussed in various papers (see literature) that
will be used as the basic literature for the seminars given by the
(guest) lecturers. In the first week, students will work on the methods
section of a research proposal. In the second week, students will
perform experiments
on location (in Zevenaar, The Netherlands) where brown-green web
interactions in subarctic ecosystems are currently being studied, with
emphasis on (a) design and statistical treatment of experiments on soil-
plant-fauna interactions, (b) techniques to identify soil organisms and
analyse soil processes, biochemistry and vegetation development. In the
third week, students will adapt their research proposal and in the
fourth week the research proposal will be submitted and defended.

Teaching Methods

Lectures (9 hours) on important theoretical concepts underlying
soil,plant,animal interactions.
Fieldwork (4 days) to test hypotheses and methods of own research
project / research proposal
Laboratory work (6 days) to analyse samples of own research project and
to prepare presentation

Method of Assessment

- Individual performance in critical group discussions about important
theory based on research papers/chapters
- A preliminary presentation about the own research project, especially
on research aim and method to test hypothesis
- A final presentation about background, design and (synthesis of)
results of own research project.

Entry Requirements

To attend this course their will be costs involved. A part of the
expenses for accommodation at Zevenaar have to be covered by the MSc-
students themselves.


Selected literature will be made available via Canvas, which includes
key papers in international journals and extracts from the book of
Richard D. Bardgett and David A.Wardle (2010): "Aboveground-Belowground
Biotic interactions, ecosystem processes, and global change". Oxford
Series in Ecology and Evolution.

Target Audience

MSc students with focus on ecology.

Additional Information

prof. dr. M.P. Berg,
prof. dr. J.H.C. Cornelissen,
dr. I. Smallegange,
ing. R.S.P. van Logtestijn.

Custom Course Registration

Fieldwork costs have to be contricuted in advance. Details will be announced via Blackboard

General Information

Course Code AM_470507
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator prof. dr. M.P. Berg
Examiner prof. dr. M.P. Berg
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Fieldwork, Lecture, Study Group, Practical, Excursion