20410487 - Ecologia animale II

The course aims at providing the theoretical and practical bases of the ecology of animal communities and of macroecology, and to deepen some aspects of population ecology and the ecology of animal behaviour that require advanced knowledge that can be acquired with attending the course on Animal Ecology.
- The student will learn the characteristics of animal communities, the descriptors to define the study methods to analyse their structure. The techniques to quantitatively analyse the relationships between the organisms belonging to the same community will be illustrated. Some models will be proposed to conduct community simulation analyses, the criteria for choosing the model and sampling techniques most suitable for the animal groups analysed.
- The study of animal communities and macroecology will be organized in different modules.
(i) Co-occurrence: the co-occurrence module allows to test non-random models of co-occurrence of species in a presence-absence matrix;
(ii) Macroecology: the study of the partitioning of physical space and ecological resources by species. Macro-ecological studies consist of the analysis of traits at the species level, such as body size, geographical area and average abundance, measured at large spatial scales;
(iii) Niche overlap: the study of niche overlap has a long history in community ecology. Simple theories of of limiting similarity y and ecological character displacement predict that interspecific competition will lead to a reduction in the niche overlap of competing species.
Testing this idea with empirical data leads to three questions:
1) which aspects of the niche should be measured?
2) How can the niche overlap between species pairs be quantified?
3) how much niche overlap would you expect in the absence of competition?
(iv) Overlap of body size: this module allows to test for unusual patterns in the body sizes of coexisting species, and to compare those patterns to what might be expected in a random assemblage that was not structured by interspecific interactions;
(v) Diversity of communities: the diversity of species is a central object of study both in the basic and applied ecology of communities. Two main issues will be addressed in the study of species diversity. The first is how can we quantify the diversity of an assemblage, and second, how we can compare statistically the diversity of two different assemblages;
(vi) Functional groups or guilds: groups of species within a community that share common resources are considered guilds.
This module will allow to incorporate the guild structure into community analyses.
- Through simulations in the laboratory and in the field, the student will learn the dynamics that determine the organization and structure of some selected animal communities.
- Interactive computer programs will be used for the analysis of null models in community ecology to test community models with experimental and non-experimental data. The Monte Carlo randomizations will be illustrated as an analytical method to compare real communities with "pseudo-communities" created using different algorithms.
The wide applicability of null models in applied and basic animal ecology will be illustrated.


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