General Ecology


Future Environmental Engineers must be able of undestanding and analysing the following topics::

- Energy and ecosystems: use and degradation by populations and communities.  Practical applications: quantification of different types of ecosystem productivities; evaluation of the positive and negative impacts resulting from the application of different strategies aiming at productivity optimization.
- Responses at population and community level to physical and biotic parameters. Practical applications: to forecast the type and sign of responses, allowing for the evaluation of the limits of tolerance of the organisms to environmental impacts.
- Main mechanisms shapping population dynamics. Practical applications: modelling of population processes and forecast of population numbers.
- Basic understanding of the structure, dynamics and problems presently faced by some types of biomes. Practical applications: design of adequate strategies for ecosystem and biome management.

In summary, students will be able of interpreting , based on scientific principles, the main processes undergone by natural communities. They should become aware of the potential of Ecology as a tool applicable to the mitigation of environmental problems.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria Paula Oliveira Sobral, Maria Teresa Calvão Rodrigues


Weekly - 3

Total - 42

Teaching language



Students should have obtained approval in all subjects lectured in previous semesters. Particularly relevant for the study of Ecology are: Introduction to Enviromental Problems and Biology


BEGON, M., HOWARTH, RW & TOWNSEND CR, 2014. Essentials of Ecology. 4th ed. Wiley. USA.

BEGON, M., HARPER, JM & TOWNSEND CR, 1996. Ecology. Individuals, populations and communities. 3rd ed. Blackwell Sci. UK.

BEGON, M., MORTIMER, M. & THOMPSON DJ, 1996. Population Ecology: A unified study of animals and plants 3rd ed. Blackwell Sci. UK

Teaching method

The teaching method includes weekly theoretical classes (2h) and practical classes (1h).

During theoretical classes the different subjects of the program will be explained, using, where possible, knowledge acquired in other courses, in an integrative view. Whenever there is opportunity facts/news (loss of biodiversity, climate change) will be referred in order to allow consolidation of the concepts. 

In the practical classes students will work with real data: organize, manipulate and interpret data, discuss results and propose solutions. Students will work in teams of two.

Evaluation method

Evaluation of theorwtical ecology is made through the application of 2 tests, average of which cannot be lower than 9.5

Labs are evaluated through 2 group reports during the semester and one mini quizz to evaluate the individual component. The avarage of the 3 pieces of evalaution cannot be lower than 9.5

Theoretical part is worth 60% and labs 40% of the total grade

To be able to get a final grade in the theoretical part and conclude the subject the student needs to:

-be present in 2/3 of the lab classes and

-have a average minimum of 9.5 in the 2 lab  works and the miniquizz.

NOTE: Students not fulfilling the 2 conditions above will not be obtain a grade in the therotical part and will not be admitted in the exam and so will not be able to concliude the subject.



Subject matter

Theoretical classes:

What is ecology?

The practice of ecology. Examples.

Environmental conditions and resources

The flow of matter and energy

Individuals and populations. Life cycles and reproduction

Intraspecific competition

Interspecific competition. Predation

Predator-prey dynamics

Communities and ecosystems

Population dynamics

Community structure and disturbance

Temporal patterns and ecological succession

Trophic relationships and stability. Patterns of specific richness

Biogeography of islands. Dispersion and dynamics of metapopulations

Conservation ecology

Small populations and threats to biodiversity


Practical classes

Study of 3 dune systems: association of species and biodiversity (alpha and beta)


Diversity on a global scale