Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes


At the end of this CU, students will adquire knowledge, skills and competences on:

- Know the main processes governing marine ecosystems, the physical, chemical and biological factors at play in the structuring of pelagic and benthic communities and their ecological functioning.

- Recognize patterns of variation in ocean productivity at different spatial scales, with a focus on the interactions of the food webs, on competition, predation and recruitment. 

- Understand the structure and function of marine ecosystems including the coastal rocky shores and sedimentary environments the continental shelf seabed and the deep sea, estuaries and ecosystems at the land-water interface, such as saltmarshes and seagrass meadows.

- Recognize the importance of marine ecosystems and the services they provide.

- Know how to identify threats to marine biodiversity and impacts on marine living resources, understand future tendencies and how to act to promote and sustain a healthy and resilient ocean system

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Marta Susana Silvestre Gouveia Martins


Weekly - 3

Total - 80

Teaching language





Kaiser, M., 2005. Marine Ecology: processes systems and impacts. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Levinton, J. 2009. Marine biology: Function, biodiversity and ecology (2nd ed). OUP, Oxford.

Nybakken, J.W., 2005. Marine biology: an ecological approach (6th ed). Pearson Education

Solan, M., Aspden, RJ, Paterson, D., 2012. Marine biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Teaching method

Basic concepts of marine ecosystem processes relative to physical, chemical and biological aspects will be introduced in the first lectures, supported by the available literature with emphasis on educational slides and videos. Students will be called to participate and intervene posing questions, as a way to develop critical thinking towards a solid knowledge. Labs will include contact with equipment to measure water parameters (hands-on), experimental labwork and an oral presentation of the results.

Teaching methodology is focused in stimulating the student´s autonomy and curiosity, closely aligned with the curricular unit “Project”

Evaluation method

The assessment is continuous and comprises: 
- one individual work (30%) 
- a group work (2 students) with oral presentation (20%) 
- a final work (2 students) with oral presentation and written document (50%)

Subject matter

The marine environment. Physical and chemical characteristics. Hydrodynamics and salinity. Solar radiation and temperature. Nutrients and productivity. Biodiversity of pelagic communities and benthic communities. Temporal and spatial variability, sedimentary processes and functional types. Food webs, competition, predation and recruitment

Ecosystem functioning Estuaries, rocky shores and sedimentary environments. Pelagic and benthic ecosystems, the continental shelf and the deep sea and the open ocean. Coral reefs and Polar ecosystems.  Land-water interface ecosystems: saltmarshes and seagrass meadows.

Disturbance of marine ecosystem functioning.

Impacts on marine biodiversity. Present situation of marine living resources and future trends.

Marine Protected Areas, conservation and sustainability of the future ocean.


Programs where the course is taught: