Università degli Studi di Napoli "Parthenope"

Teaching schedule

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Belonging course: 
Course of Master's Degree Programme on BIOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY
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First Semester
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Course description

The course has the goal to provide theoretical and applied competences useful to implement environmental assessment with a biophysical and systems approach. During the course, case studies on environmental and sustainability assessment will be presented, focusing on the role of matter and energy flows in the functioning of natural and human-dominated ecosystems.


Basic notions of ecology


Part one. Introduction and goals of the course. Reductionistic paradigm and anlytical method. Olistic paradigm and systems thinking. Elements of General Systems Theory. Systemic and thermodynamic properties of ecological systems. Anthropogenic pressure and sustainable management of natural resources. Relations between the economic-productive system and the natural ecosystem. Spatial and temporal scales.
Second part. Sustainable development theory. Sustainable yield. Carrying capacity. Energetics and lifestyles. Hubbert curve and peak oil. Environmental assessments: problems and needs. An integrated ecological-economic-thermodynamic approach. Value theory: economic, energetic and ecological value of a resource. Concentration or "quality" of energy. Examples of energy networks in natural and man-made systems. Dependence and use of energy in food production systems.
Third part. Evaluation of resources: the perspective of the user and the donor. Energy analysis. The gross energy demand method (G.E.R.). Energy indicators. Net energy, Energy return On Investment (E.R.O.I.).
The Emergy Accounting. Concept of emergy and transformity. Definition of the concepts of solar emergy, solar transformity and specific emergy. Odum's energy-symbolic language. Systemic diagrams. Procedures for assessing mass, energy and emergy flows. Emergy-based indicators, indicators of performance, environmental impact and sustainability. Case studies: evaluation of natural and man-made ecosystems. Environmental assessment & Accounting: multi-criteria and multi-scale approach.

The course is focused on the assessment of socio-ecological systems adopting a biophysical and systems approach.

Teaching Methods

Frontal teaching (theoretical and applied lectures), discussion of case studies.


Sven Erik Jørgensen, 2012. Introduction to Systems Ecology. CRC Press.

Articles and lecture notes from the Instructor.

Learning assessment

Oral examination

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