ECOLOGY AND AGRONOMIC SCIENCE
Landscape Architecture. Land Landscape Heritage, 2017
Planning, designing and managing landscapes requires the ability to read and understand complex interactions taking place among a number of physical, biological and socioeconomic factors over space and time. In particular, peri-urban spaces, the landscape interface between town and country, raise critical sustainability challenges. They are transitional zones at the urban fringe where urban and rural land uses mix and often clash, yet they are crucial to the liveability and sustainability of cities as they contribute significantly to the supply of natural resources such as water and food, and the satisfaction of recreational needs. Their proper management requires integrated approaches addressing environmental protection, ecosystem services provisioning and the creation of green infrastructures along with local socioeconomic development.
The main objectives of the course are to introduce students to the basic concepts of ecology and agronomic science and to foster their integration into landscape design. In particular, the course aims to develop students' knowledge and understanding of the main components of agro-ecosystems and their interactions, and the capability to read and understand landscapes in terms of ecological processes and dynamics. The course is articulated into two modules, one on Botany, agronomy and arboriculture and one on Ecology.
Botany, agronomy and arboriculture (BAA) module topics
The module will include some basic knowledge of botany, mainly referred to cultivated plants, their morphology and physiology, principles and practices in agronomy, required for cropping/farming systems management and design.
Agricultural heritages, values, systems, knowledge, practices: origin and development; ecological analysis of the original centers of agriculture. Analysis of farming systems and their biological components: basic concepts and main properties of cropping, farming, agricultural systems; components of the farming system: climate, soils, vegetation. Farm level: strategies and tactics, agronomic sustainable management of the systems; SWOT analysis based on pedo-climatical, market (local, global), legislation (local, global). Integrated management of biological, physical, chemical resources; strategies and tactics for water management in rainfed and irrigated agriculture; energy and labour. Analysis of some case-histories. The Bionomic project. Landscape Bionomics: analysis, diagnosis, therapy.
The activities will face theoretical issues with practical application through the development of a project on a real rural area where, individually and with working groups, it will be possible to recover data, information, data-set, elaborate a GIS and propose modifications to the structure/physiology of the landscape for improving some landscape bionomic indicators.
Ecology module topics
Introduction to ecology: introductory concepts; ecological levels; basic structure and functioning of ecosystems. Interactions between organisms and their environment: environmental conditions and resources; fundamental ecosystem processes; trophic interactions; energy and matter flows through ecosystems. Biodiversity concepts and indices: geographical patterns in biodiversity; main threats to biodiversity; measuring biodiversity; biogeography. Urban ecology: anthropogenic biomes; human disturbance and novel ecosystems; effects of urbanization on the physical environment; biological responses to urbanization. Landscape ecology: landscape patterns and drivers of landscape disturbance; landscape analysis and metrics; interactions of organisms with landscape heterogeneity. Development and sustainability: the triple bottom line of sustainability; sustainability indicators; natural capital and ecosystem services; life cycle thinking and life cycle assessment.
Teaching will be based on a mix of theoretical lectures, aimed at introducing basic concepts and methods; discussion sessions, to foster a critical knowledge of the course topics; field activities, aimed at gathering real-life data to be elaborated in the classroom; and practice sessions, in which exercises will allow students to apply the concepts learned in class and deepen their understanding.
For the BAA module, the final assessment will be based on the evaluation of a project (individually presented and discussed) and on an oral test, with theoretical questions on the topics covered by the programme and some questions aimed at revealing the student’s ability to connect the several issues discussed over the programme with other studies. For the Ecology module, students' progress will be assessed by means of a written test, which will include closed and open-ended questions, as well as numerical exercises. Individual and/or group contributions by students (either written or oral) will also be taken into account and will contribute to the final grade.
Slides used during lectures will provide the reference material for learning. They will be published on the web site of the course and will be integrated with additional material such as scientific papers and book chapters.
Suggested reference books (optional):
Loomins R.S. and Connors D.J. 2012. Crop Ecology. Cambridge University Press.
Ingegnoli V. 2015. Landscape Bionomics. Springer.
Perlman, D.L., Milder, J.C. (2004) Practical Ecology for Planners, Developers and Citizens. Island Press, Washington DC
European Environment Agency, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (2011) Landscape fragmentation in Europe. Joint EEA-FOEN report. EEA Report no. 2/2011 (https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/landscape-fragmentation-in-europe)
Forman, R.T.T. (2014) Urban Ecology. Science of Cities. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Molles, M. (2015) Ecology: Concepts and Applications. 7th Edition. McGraw Hill Education, New York
Turner, M.G., Gardner, R.H. (2015) Landscape Ecology in Theory and Practice. Springer, New York