DEPARTMENT OF EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES
2nd semester (01/03/2022 - 10/06/2022)
29 lesson hours
Basic knowledge of ecology, zoology and botany is required. Moreover, because most of the material that will be proposed is in English, we recommend students to have a sufficient level of scientific English.
The course aims to provide basic knowledge on the impacts of invasive alien species on animal biodiversity. Alien species are in fact one of the main environmental emergencies and are considered by the international scientific community the second cause of biodiversity loss on a global scale, after habitat loss and fragmentation. Students will be provided with tools useful to evaluate the effects associated with introductions, with particular attention on terrestrial Vertebrates.
We will discuss the information processing mechanisms that might facilitate survival and reproduction of the first few generations of invaders in a new environment, which need to detect and investigate new resources, and develop the skills to exploit them, while learning to detect and avoid unknown, naive predators. With this aim, we will try to understand how animal invasions are affected by life history traits and behaviour, both being part of a same adaptive strategy.
We will discuss the sequence of steps characterised invasion processes, that start with the transport of a species outside its geographic range, its introduction into a novel environment, establishment (i.e. survival and reproduction) and then spread. In this context, we will explore the role played by dispersal mechanisms in the success of invaders.
Ample space will be devoted to the effects of invasive species on biodiversity conservation, including the reduction of native species and alterations of habitats that may follow important changes to the ecosystem, but also the consequences on human activities, as well as threats to the human well-being on health and infrastructure. Specific topics related to each of the most involved wildlife groups will be discussed, with particular reference to Vertebrates, such as adaptation and coevolution of species in response to biological invasions, focusing on emblematic cases both on a global scale and in Italy, like the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), coypu (Myocastor coypus), North American gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and other alien squirrels, and American vison (Neovison vison).
Lessons will be in presence using power point support and the pdf of the presentation will be available on the KIRO platform. At the end of each lesson, some time will be dedicated to actively discussing any issues that will arise.
Specific case studies will be analysed in depth.
Two visits/surveys will be organised, with the main aim of applying field methods for the census and control of alien species.
Reccomended or required readings
Materials will be provided using online databases, scientific articles and international reports, all easily accessible via internet. However, here is a list of suggested English books:
Lockwood J.L. et al., 2013. Invasion Ecology, 2nd edition. Wiley and Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3364-0 (hardback : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-1-4443-3365-7 (softback : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-1-118-57078-4 – ISBN 978-1-118-57080-7 – ISBN 978-1-118-57081-4 (emobi) – ISBN 978-1-118-57082-1 (epub) – ISBN 978-1-118-57083-8 (epdf) 1.
Clout M. N., Williams P. A., 2009. Invasive Species Management. A Handbook of Principles and Techniques. Oxford Press University. ISBN 978–0–19–921632–1 (Hbk.) ISBN 978–0–19–921633–8 (Pbk.)
Autori vari, 2009.Handbook of Alien Species in Europe. Springer. ISBN: 978-1-4020-8279-5 e-ISBN: 978-1-4020-8280-1
Jeschke M., Heger T., 2018. Invasion Biology Hypotheses and Evidence. CABI. ISBN-13: 978 1 78064 764 7
Simberloff D.,2013. Invasive Species (What Everyone Needs to Know). Oxford University Press.
There will be a single exam for the two Modules, which will be carried out and evaluated by both professors.
During the oral exam, students will be asked to present a case study, e.g. using a power point support, which will have to be consistent with the topics discussed during the lessons. Further questions will be asked to ascertain the overall level of knowledge.
The final mark (0-30) will be based on the level of knowledge of the students and their correct use of the terminology; moreover, the preparation and organisation of the presentation will be also be evaluated.
Sustainable development goals - Agenda 2030
Module 1 of the course Alien Species and Biodiversity is aligned with goals 13 (Climate action), 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land) of the UN agenda 2030