Terrestrial Ecosystems


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Resources
Seminar guidelines
Field trips and Labs

The ecosystem approach to ecology treats organisms and the physical aspects of their environment as components of a single integrated system. Terrestrial ecosystem functioning is governed by interactions amongst animals, plants, and soil organisms, as well as exchanges of energy and resources with the atmosphere, soils, rocks, and aquatic environments. This advanced undergraduate level ecology course is focused on plant-soil interactions as being a fundamental determinant of the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems around the world. As a group, we will attempt to synthesize recent advances arising from the ecosystem approach with established ecological theory to describe and explain ecosystem-level patterns and processes in the terrestrial environment. Since human activities are now having increasingly pervasive and dominant effects on natural ecosystems, the course will include an examination of global change issues in the context of landscape-level dynamics in space and time, and whole Earth biogeochemistry. In that context, the course content for 2014/15 in particular will be centered around the following thematic question:  What are the problems associated with current farm management practices in agroecosystems, and how can they be realistically and sustainably addressed?

Learning outcomes:
By the end of this course, the student should be able to
:

  1. Explain and evaluate the major concepts underlying terrestrial ecosystem ecology
  2. Describe and contrast the major processes and features that distinguish local terrestrial ecosystem-types
  3. Present a synthetic, logical and individualistic seminar on a fundamental issue in terrestrial ecosystem ecology
  4. Develop, conduct, analyse, and write a lab/field research study that addresses a student-inspired question in terrestrial ecosystem ecology.


Paul Grogan
E-mail: groganp@queensu.ca
Office: Room 2508. Tel. (613) 533 6152. Fax: (613) 533 6617
Lab: Rooms 2605, 2606. Tel. (613) 533 6000 ext. 78101
Lab web page: Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology lab page

 

Lecture times: Tuesdays 08.30-10.00; Fridays 10.00-11.30
Lab/field trip times: Mostly alternate Mondays: 11.30-14.30; Overnight weekend field course on October 18-19

Lab Instructor: Nishka Wright

Location: Room 3110, (Labs 3311) Biosciences building

 

Assessment:
5% Field trip presentation
10% Participation in discussions
10% Seminar questions
25% Seminar
25% Research report

25% Final exam

Required textbook: Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. 2011. 2nd edition. Chapin, F.S. III, Matson, P.A. and Vitousek, P. Springer.

Schedule (to be updated throughout the course):
Lecture/Seminar sessions are 80 minutes; Labs up to 3 hours

Week Day and time Convenor Topic Reading
08 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Field trip to Bellevue House farm garden  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Introduction: The Ecosystem Concept Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 1-12,17-22
  Friday, 10.00 Paul The Climate System Chapin et al, Chapter 2: 23-26, 38-41, 50-61
15 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Politics- How it can shape science  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Soil Development Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 13-17; Chapter 3: 63-69
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Soil Development continued, and field trip to Miller Hall Geological Museum  
22 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka/Paul Field trip to "The Salt of the Earth" local farm  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Soil Transformations, and Physical Properties Chapin et al, Chapter 3: 73-78, 82-85
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Soil Chemical Properties Chapin et al, Ch. 3: 86-89; Ch. 7: 204-206; Ch. 9: 287-290; 293-296.
29 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Proposal development; Lab tour; Guest lecture by Casper Christensen  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul The Biology of Soils I Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 183-194; 243-244; Chapter 9: 271-280 (overview)
  Friday, 10.00 Paul The Biology of Soils II Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 183-194; Chapter 11: 321-324; 334-335.
6 Oct Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Proposal development  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Decomposition, and Plant-Soil interactions Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 194-204; Chapter 8: 229-233, 238-241, 253-255
  Friday, 10.00   No class  
13 Oct     THANKSGIVING  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Caleb Axelrod In what contexts is agroforestry a viable option for improving sustainable agriculture? Wotherspoon, A. et al. 2014. Carbon sequestration potential of five tree species in a 25-year old temperate tree-based intercropping system in southern Ontario, Canada. Agroforestry Systems (88):631-643.
  Friday, 10.00 Russell Stairs What are likely to be the most effective options to sustain our current agricultural practices once fossil fuels run out? Hunt C.L. et al, 2013. NOx emissions and performance of a compact diesel tractor fueled with emulsified and non-emulsified biodiesel. Journal of Agric. Systems, Tech., and Management (24):12-22.
18 Oct Overnight field trip   Field visits to Kaiser Lake conventional farm, and to an ecosystem-level manipulative experiment in old field meadow grassland  
19 Oct Overnight field trip   Field visit to Ravensfield Biodynamics farm  
20 Oct Tuesday, 08.30 Fiona Emdin

Why is livestock hormone runoff a serious issue in agriculture, and what is the best strategy to address it?

Lucas, S, and Jones, D.L. 2006. Biodegradation of estrone and 17beta-estradiol in grassland soils amended with animal wastes. Soil Biology and Biochemistry (38):2803-2815.
  Friday, 10.00 John Serafini On balance, will climate change have a net positive or negative effect on Ontario’s wine production?  
27 Oct. Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Student projects -collection/processing of samples  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Victoria Donovan Agriculture and the Canadian Government - their interdependence both financially and via product placement  
  Friday, 10.00 Jin-Zhi (Gigi) Pao Is it possible for urban agriculture to provide enough food to sustain a city?  
3 Nov. Tuesday, 08.30 Benia Nowak Is small-scale, polyculture farming a realistic and necessary approach to global-scale sustainable agriculture?  
  Friday, 10.00 Holly Downey "Vertical farming" which is supposed to be a sustainable solution for farming, actually influences ecosystems and the economy. Or the effect of invasive species on farming, and how climate change is expected to influence invasive species establishment.    
10 Nov. Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Statistical analyses of project data  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Keira Mckee No-till farming effects on soil nutrients and crop growth  
  Friday, 10.00 Jessie Luedi Vegetarianism - Is it a viable option that would significantly alleviate agriculture's current problems?  
17 Nov. Tuesday, 08.30 Jordan Constant    
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Trophic dynamics, and Herbivory Chapin et al, Chapter 10: 297-306, 317-319, 362-364
24 Nov. Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Student project presentations  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Sustaining socio-ecological systems Chapin et al, Chapter 15
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Synthesis  

Click here to see the course structure and topics addressed in previous years (2007 and 2008, 2010)

 


Last Updated: 17 Oct 2014