ELECTIVES > HUMAN DOMINATED ECOSYSTEMS

The units are: 1) disturbance patterns, 2) the physical and biogeochemical environment in patches and edges, 3) plant and animal population dynamics in patches and edges, and 4) modeling human dominated ecosystems. The first class period in each unit will be a lecture. The two subsequent classes within each unit will student-led discussion of papers assigned by the instructor. The last two classes within each unit will be student-led discussions of papers selected by the student in charge of the discussion. The instructor will assign students for both the assigned paper and student-selected paper discussions. Each student will have to lead one of each type of discussion over the course of the semester.

 Each student will also be required to write an independent research paper in which they develop hypothesis about how human-induced landscape pattern affects some aspect of ecosystem structure and or function. The paper will be in the form of a proposal in which the student designs a research to test their ideas. To help in the development of hypotheses, students will have the opportunity to analyze landscape pattern for particular human-dominated places of their choosing using a simple GIS or to explore field research ideas at local field sites used by Ecosystems Center scientists for research on the ecology of suburban environments.

The emphasis through out the course will be on how scientists define questions and design experiments of studies to answer those questions in human-dominated landscapes. Students will learn to view these systems as ecological systems and to understand the ways in which humans influence ecological functioning. They will learn how to develop their own ideas as scientists in the setting of these landscapes. Grades will be assigned as follows:

Recommended Readings: Check readings for each week- see syllabus below.

Class Structure and Grading:
Overall class participation (20%)
Assigned paper discussion leadership (20%)
Student-selected discussion leadership (20%)
Written project (40%)

Syllabus

Unit 1: Disturbance and pattern in ecosystems

In this unit, we will examine "natural" disturbance regimes in ecosystems and how they are potentially altered by human activities and land use change. We will read examples from ecosystems where fire, flooding and wind damage are dominant processes and the idea of a steady state and the importance of scale in the concept of steady state will be considered. We will then consider human alteration of ecosystems by fragmentation as a new kind of disturbance pattern.

Examples of readings:

 Baker, W. L. 1992. Effects of settlement and fire suppression on landscape structure. Ecology 73:1879-1887.

 Foster, D. R. , J. D. Aber, J. M. Melillo, R. D. Bowden and F. A. Bazazz. 1997. Forest response to disturbance and anthropogenic stress. BioScience 47:437-445. 

Minnich, R.A. 1983. Fire mosaics in southern California and northern Baja California. Science 219:1287-1294.

 O’Neill, R. V., D. L. DeAngelis, J. B. Waide and T. F. H. Allen. 1986. A Hierarchical Concept of Ecosystems. Princeton University Press. (Chapters 2-4).

 Sparks, R. E., J. C. Nelson and Y. Yin. 1998. Naturalization of the flood regime of regulated rivers. BioScience 48:706-720.

 White, P. S. 1979. Pattern, process and natural disturbance in vegetation. Botanical Review 45:229-299.

 

Unit 2: Ecosystem structure and function in human-dominated landscapes

 We will examine some of the metrics for characterizing and mapping landscape patterns and the extent of landscape fragmentation. We will also consider how these patterns modify the physical and biogeochemical environment, by examining microclimate and energy balance, biogeochemistry of edges and patches in forested and agricultural landscapes. Students will also have the opportunity to visit field sites where some of these kinds of information are being collected.

 Examples of readings:

Cadenasso, M. L., M. M. Traynor and S. T. A. Pickett. 1997. Functional location of forest edges: gradients of multiple physical factors. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 27:774-782.

Chen, J., S. C. Saunders, T. R. Crow, R. J. Naiman, K. D. Brosofske, G. D. Mroz, B. L. Brookshire and J. F. Franklin. 1999. Microclimate in forest ecosystem and landscape ecology. BioScience 49:288-297.

Kapos, V. 1989. Effects of isolation on the water status of forest patches in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of tropical Ecology 5:173-185.

Krummel, J. R., R. H. Gardner, G. Sugihara, R. V. O’Neill and P. R. Coleman. 1987. Landscape pattern in a disturbed environment. Oikos 48:321-324.

Medley, K. E., S. T. A. Pickett and M. J. McDonnell. Forest-landscape structure along an urban-to-rural gradient. Professional Geographer 47:159-168.

 

Unit 3: Plant and animal population dynamics in edges and patches

We will consider the role of edges and patches in influencing plant and animal populations and how those concepts applyin human-dominated suburban and agricultural systems. Some processes that we will examine are tree biomass and turnover, changes in the susceptibility to invasion by exotic species, predation and nest parasitism rates in birds, changes in the regional abundance of different edge-adapted species, especially "meso" predators, such as raccoons, skunks, crows and house cats. 

Examples of readings:

Greenwood, R.J., Sargeant, A.B., Johnson, D.H., Cowardin, L.M. and Shaffer, T.L. 1987. Mallard nest success and recruitment in prairie Canada. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 52:298-308

Laurance, W. F., L. Farreira, J. M. Rankin-deMerona and S. G. Laurance. 1998. Rain forest fragmentation and the dynamics of Amazonian tree communities. Ecology 79:2032-2040.

Saunders, D. A., R. J. Hobbs and C. R. Margules. 1991. Biological consequences of ecosystem fragmentation: a review. Conservation Biology 5:18-32.

Whitney, G. G., and S. D. Adams. 1980. Man as maker of new plant communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 17:431-448.

Wilcove, D.S. 1985. Nest predation in forest tracts and the decline of migratory songbirds. Ecology 64:11211-1214

Woodroffe, R. and J. R. Ginsberg. 1998. Edge effects and the extinction of populations inside protected areas. Science 280:2126-2128

Unit 4: Modeling human-dominated landscapes

We will examine recent approaches to modeling land use change and ecosystem processes in human-dominated systems. Examples will include modeling nutrient loading to lakes and coastal zones with expanding human populations and spatial models of landscapes.

Examples of readings:

Mladenoff, D. J., R. G. Haight, T. A. Sicley and A. P. Wydeven. 1997. Causes and implications of species restoration in altered ecosystems. BioScience 47:21-31.

Valiela, I., G. Collins, J. Kremer, K. Lajtha, M. Geist, B. Seeley, J. Brawley and C. H. Sham. 1997. Nitrogen loading from coastal watersheds to receiving estuaries: new methods and applications. Ecological Applications 358-380.

Soranno, P. A., S. L. Hubler and S. R. Carpenter. 1996. Phosphorus loads to surface waters: a simple model to account for spatial patterns of land use. Ecological Applications 6:865-878.

 

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