The questions 'why are there so many species?', or, conversely, 'why aren't there just a very few, very widely-distributed, dominant species?' remain at the forefront of contemporary ecology; satisfactorily resolving this issue is of conceptual and practical importance. This course considers these questions from a range of different perspectives.
It considers the various concepts of biodiversity, the processes generating and maintaining biodiversity, and the issues surrounding the conservation of biodiversity for the future. At regional and global levels, patterns of biodiversity are usually the result of evolutionary and geological factors while at smaller (local) scales they are the result of ecological processes and interactions. Therefore, consideration will be given to the processes generating and maintaining biodiversity at a wide range of spatio-temporal scales (from single years to millions of years and from individual organisms to the entire globe).
This course provides the necessary background to understand some of the most important problems in contemporary ecology and to understand other important principles and theories in ecology.
Specifically, the course covers:
- The Ecosystem Concept and Scale
- Species and Speciation
- Historical Biogeography: Patterns of Global Diversity
- Island Ecosystems, Island Biogeography and Reserve Design
- Population Regulation: Limits to Growth and Life History Trade-offs
- Interspecific Interactions: Competition and Predation
- Succession and Climax: Temporal Dynamics in Ecological Communities
- Equilibrium and Non-equilibrium Models of Biodiversity
- Conclusions: Where Are We Going?