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BIOL-L402: Ecosystems and Global Change

Professor: Rich Phillips

What controls how much carbon dioxide can be removed and stored in an ecosystem? Where do nutrients come from, and how do the living and non-living components of an ecosystem determine the fate and transport of these nutrients? How will global environmental changes such as changing precipitation patterns, nitrogen deposition and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations affect the functioning of ecosystems and the services (e.g., water purification, carbon storage, food and fiber) that they provide?

Ecosystem ecology is the study of these and other questions about the interactions between the living and non-living components of an ecosystem. Given that most ecosystems are comprised of thousands of species co-occurring in a heterogeneous matrix, ecosystem scientists view ecosystems as systems, where physical, chemical and biological processes control how energy and materials flow into, out of, and within the system. The goals of this course are to understand how ecosystems function, as well as how and why ecosystems differ in their sensitivity to stress, disturbance and global change. In this course, students will be exposed to the key concepts and approaches used in the field of ecosystem ecology, including: ecosystem energetics (e.g., primary and secondary production, decomposition, and food webs), biogeochemical cycles and budgets (primarily the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus), and the response of ecosystems to stress, disturbance and global change.

This course will cover patterns and processes in aquatic, terrestrial and wetland ecosystems.

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